Talking With Children

Talking to children about dying and death is not easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are a parent, other family member or friend. It may seem easier not to scare or burden them. Unfortunately children and teenagers need to face what is happening. They may become more anxious if they feel secrets are being kept from them.

Children (4 years and over) and teenagers need information that is:

  • Honest
  • Timely and appropriate to their developmental age and situation.

Make time to talk with them. Listen to what they are asking and what they are saying.

Start by finding out what they know. They may be concerned about things that are not true or they may have concerns that you had not considered.

Let them know that they can always ask questions or share their feelings with you. Regularly ask if they want to talk or ask questions.

Prepare them in advance for visits to hospitals or health care settings by describing what they might see. Children will react differently. If they are not distressed, then visits can be continued. For more on this visit the Canadian virtual Hospice pages.


Many websites have sections for children that are helpful. Some have information for parents. Check these websites. See what conversations or questions may follow.

Serious Illness


Disease Specific

Support for kids

  • This is a difficult time. Children or teenagers may appear not to be coping. Useful information on depression and anxiety, and how to find various forms of support can be found on the Youth Beyond Blue website. This website also gives phone helpline numbers for parents, families and kids.
  • Canteen is an Australian organisation for young people living with cancer and provides information and resources that may help. There is also a Cancer Council Helpline.
  • Kids Helpline is a 24 hour telephone and online counselling service for young people between the ages of 5 and 18.

Last updated 10 July 2020