Children's views of death

Myra Bluebond-Langner, Amy DeCicco and Megan Nordquest Schwallie

in Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care for Children

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199595105
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199665020 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks In Palliative Medicine

Children's views of death

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  • Paediatrics
  • Palliative Medicine


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Death is a topic which adults find difficult to discuss with children. Talking about it seems a painful, confusing intrusion into a child’s world. This assumes that death is foreign to a child’s usual thoughts, that it is distressing for a child to even consider, and that it is difficult for them to grasp. Ideally, thoughts and talk about death should wait for a time of more maturity, both emotional and cognitive. However, as we all know, discussions of death are usually forced upon us by the death of a pet, a relative, or a close friend, or even the impending death of the child him- or herself. This leads us to ask whether adult reservations about discussing death with children are well founded. What should we say? What can they understand? In this chapter we shall consider what needs to be taken into account when assessing children’s understanding of death, and suggest guidelines for talking to well and ill children about dying. We begin with an overview of the literature on well and terminally ill children’s views of death, followed by a brief presentation of the thoughts of well siblings and how they communicate with their ill siblings.

Chapter.  10027 words. 

Subjects: Paediatrics ; Palliative Medicine

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