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Does He Understand?

16 February 2013

  Kyler watched Finding Nemo this week. It was the third Disney movie he has sat through from start to finish! I get excited about things like this, because it's a rare thing for him to do- he typically prefers to play.  Anyways, after Nemo's mom got eaten by the shark,  Kyler turned to me and asked "Where'd she go?" I ignored him hoping he'd forget. How in the world was I supposed to explain a topic like death to my two year old? buuuut...Kyler was persistent. He planted his toddler hands on my cheeks and bore his eyes deep into my soul and repeated his question. After I told him that she had died, he said "Oh yeah. All gone" then kept watching without a flicker of emotion. I was surprised that he assumed death meant "all gone" and wondered if he knew how long that meant, and why he didn't show any emotion. This got my Child Development nerdiness and curiosity going and I began researching children's understanding of death. From what I found, toddlers understand that "dying" means to go away, but they do not understand the concept of how long until they are about 5-6 years old. Toddlers tend to react to death however they see their caretaker reacting. They sense emotions, and can tell when someone is upset.

Even though Kyler is still really young, and hasn't ever had a pet or person he knows die. It's still good to know what I should be teaching him about death at each stage of development. It is so important to be honest with kids, and to create an atmosphere of openness where they feel like they can talk to you and ask questions! If you are interested, here are a few of the links I visited on the topic:

Young children's understanding of death

Explaining death in child's terms

How children perceive death at different stages 


  1. Before thanksgiving last year I saw the understanding of death up close from mackenzie she is 6 now. She had a fish named beauregarden and sadly he passed away. She called me up crying and told me that he had died. She told me that she was very sad that he died. It broke my heart to know that she now knew the pain that comes with losing someone you care about.

  2. I love how you try so hard to parent with understanding and purpose. I feel this is rare and not common. It will benefit Kyler in the years to come.

    We haven't ventured past Sesame Street, but it's good to know that our reaction can be positive to our children.

  3. This is so interesting! I've never really thought about what a young child's understanding of difficult topics like this is! I'm sure you did a great job explaining to him!


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