Hablar de la muerte con niños y niñas


Death is an inevitable part of life and, despite medical and scientific advancements that have prolonged our lives, it remains a delicate and often avoided topic in our society. For an adult, understanding and accepting death can be a challenging task, but for a child, this task can seem even more complicated. 

However, talking to children about death is crucial for their emotional development and understanding of the world. Based on an article from the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital and the Trauma, Crisis, and Conflict Unit of Barcelona (UTCCB), we offer some advice on how to approach this topic with young children.


It is natural to want to protect our children from the pain of losing a loved one. However, it is important to remember that they, just like us, will have to face death at some point in their lives. Teaching them to understand and accept death can help them be better emotionally prepared when that time comes. Moreover, openly discussing death fosters an environment of trust and open communication, where children can express their fears and questions.


1. Adults Should Communicate the News

Ideally, the news of a loved one’s death should be communicated by the parents. If this is not possible, the person closest to the child emotionally should take on this role.

2. Choose the Right Place

It is important to choose a quiet and safe place for the conversation, such as the child’s room. Sitting at their level and, if necessary, offering a hug can be comforting.

3. Use Appropriate Language

Adapting the language to the child’s age is crucial. Using simple words and a calm, loving, and respectful tone of voice helps convey the message more clearly and understandably.

4. Do Not Avoid the Word “Death”

It is essential to use clear terms like “dead” or “has died.” Explaining what happened simply and honestly allows the child to understand the situation better.

5. Allow Questions and Express Emotions

Giving the child space to ask questions and express their feelings is vital. Responding sincerely and not providing more information than necessary will help avoid additional confusion and fears.


It is helpful to distinguish between different types of death when talking about death with children:

Expected Death: Usually occurs in older people who have completed their life cycle.

Unexpected Death: Occurs in younger people, suddenly.

Each type can influence how the news is communicated and how the child will process the loss.


Before Age 6

Children at this age have concrete thinking and take things literally. It is important to explain death in simple and direct terms, avoiding concepts that may confuse—for example, saying that the body of the person who has died can no longer function and will not wake up again. It is crucial to help them understand that death is irreversible.

Additionally, addressing their fears about losing other loved ones is important, assuring them that death typically occurs in older people. It is also essential to differentiate between common illnesses and serious diseases to prevent the child from unnecessarily worrying about their health.

Between Ages 6 and 9

At this age, children begin to understand that is permanent, but may not fully grasp its implications. Questions like “Is death forever?” or “Where is the person who died now?” are common. Adults should respond clearly and calmly, maintaining composure and offering consistent answers. 

Listening to their concerns and allowing them to express their feelings in a safe environment is essential. Over time, the initial distress will decrease as the child processes the information.

From Age 9 and Up

Preadolescents and adolescents understand death similarly to adults but may feel that this experience sets them apart from their peers. They are likely to experience fear about their mortality and the possibility of losing other loved ones. These feelings can manifest through illness, mood changes, eating or sleeping problems, and a loss of interest in school. 

It is important to give them space and time to process their emotions and to be available to talk about death when they are ready. Explaining that their feelings are normal and that there are different ways to express sadness can help them cope with their grief.


Talking to children about death is a delicate but necessary task. Providing a safe and open environment for discussing this topic can help them understand and accept death more healthily. By following these guidelines and adapting our communication to the child’s age and level of understanding, we can help them face loss with greater resilience and comprehension.

Discussing that not only helps children process the loss of a loved one but also equips them with emotional tools to handle future difficult experiences. In talking about it, let’s ensure that we are building a bridge of understanding and support that will allow them to navigate these moments with greater strength and inner peace.