Do you believe in marriage after death?

Children ask about death - even in kindergarten

1. How the subject of death can flow into everyday kindergarten life

To talk about parting, dying and dying in kindergarten, you don't have to wait for a specific situation. The subject of death is made up of so many facets that it can flow into the work at any time and is part of it without reflection.

In the rhythm of the seasons, in natural history observations (examples: the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly, the tadpole into a frog, development from a seed to a sunflower, from an onion bulb to a tulip) and light experiments (light and dark), are just some of the possibilities that To give children a comprehensible dimension of transience, life cycle or beginning and end "by the hand", the head and the understanding.

In denominational kindergartens, church holidays such as Easter, All Saints 'Day and All Souls' Day provide additional points of contact that are also not emotionally stressful.

Specifically, the serious illness of a grandparent, the death of a family or a pet offer an opportunity to talk to the children.

In this context, questions and stories from the children must always be noticed and taken seriously, as the parents are often emotionally unable to face the children's conversation.

This is justified by keeping all suffering, sad and dark away from the little people.

But how do children want to perceive happiness and brightness when the other pole is denied them. Only the range of all feelings makes the holistic approach!

2. Knowledge of children's understanding of death

Before educators talk to the children about death, it is important that they know how children understand death.

Small children do not understand the finality of death until they are 3 or 4 years old. Both cognitively and experience-oriented, this is excluded from the child's imagination.

Rather, it is their experience: “I am brought to kindergarten - and picked up again. Mom goes to work - and comes back ”. It is usually not the case that one parent leaves the house and does not return.

Ultimately, children have to experience death and grief on their own bodies and deal with them.

From the age of 4, children start asking questions about death. They are not emotionally affected by the thought of death, rather they are curious and interested. If they have not experienced it in their closest environment, children initially believe that only others die. When children learn that parents can die too, worry about housing, food and drink is sometimes greater than the possible loss of mom's physical closeness. By the age of 6 at the latest, every child has had contact with death, be it through death in the family, with a pet, the dead mouse in the garden or news reports of disasters, wars and crimes. The finality of death, biological death, is usually understood and understood by children by the age of 10 at the latest.

3. Willingness of parents and educators to talk

Above all, it is important that the kindergarten team and the parents are ready to talk. It is also not about knowing everything "correctly". Like all other people, educators spend their entire lives searching for the meaning of life, which also includes death. Some questions can be explained biologically to the children in general, some answers can only be given by each person for themselves, as it is related to their own meaning.

When it comes to the classic question “Where is my grandma now?”, It is important to give an honest and authentic answer. This also includes doubts and helplessness. Different beliefs and opinions do not confuse the children, but show the plurality of life.

A child who asks a question about life after death will usually have thought about it beforehand. Here adults always have the opportunity to ask: “What do you think?” This can lead to valuable hours of “philosophizing”.

4. Parental concern

Sometimes parents complain that the issue has made their children scared and unable to sleep. If the children have not heard any terrible horror stories in kindergarten, one can assume that the child may have already gathered a lot of thoughts about death and fortunately find an opportunity to talk about them, ask questions and also express fears. If children feel that sad topics are taboo, and caregivers react “so strangely” to them, they may not ask any more questions. They look for their information elsewhere, pictures of their fantasies are often more terrible than the fact itself. The concern of some educators and parents that the subject of dying is not for children often only expresses their own fear of contact. But here, too, conversations with children can be beneficial for adults through a different point of view.

5. Grief in children

Whether and how a child grieves depends on the relationship or dependency that existed with the deceased person or animal. Signs of grief can be tears, but also anger, aggression, depression, silence, overactivity and much more. Every form of grief is normal, you can't tell anyone how to grieve right or wrong. However, in the case of aggression, for example, it is important to ensure that the child does not harm himself or others.

Parents sometimes report with concern that the teacher recommended professional grief counseling because the child has been sad for more than 6 weeks after the grandfather's death.

Here it should be said once again clearly: There is no fixed period of mourning. A child can and should be sad from time to time for a lifetime that their beloved grandpa is no longer there. It just shouldn't be mourning all the time!

Adult people mourn the death of their spouse and the end of a passionate relationship for different lengths of time. Being able (and allowed to) to be sad does not mean to be depressed.

However, professional grief assistance is always necessary when a grieving person changes in his or her nature to the detriment. A happy child no longer finds a reason to laugh, the circle of friends has dissolved, no more contacts can be made, you no longer have any interest in activities.

Here it is often appropriate for outside help in the form of accompaniment to be brought into the family. Grief counseling is also always recommended if a sudden death that affects the family system occurs, a sibling dies or the family can no longer help each other for other reasons.

6. Consolation

Often adults tend to comfort children after a fall: “It doesn't hurt at all! Here's a piece of candy. ”Anyone who has fallen over and had a graze on their knee knows how much it hurts. You have to be allowed to cry and complain, it is a normal reaction that is good for you, but is usually worked off by candy and other things. A donation in the form of: “That certainly hurts terribly! Come on, let's sit down, maybe it will get a little better, ”confirms the child in his or her perception and is more appropriate as a consolation. Just signal: “I have some time for you. I'm with you now. "

Every tear that is cried, every memory, anger and distress that is expressed helps big and small people to deal with grief in a healthy way.

7. Get to know images of hope, life cycles

There are many ways to experience the subject of farewell, dying, death and mourning, but also images of hope of resurrection, rebirth, survival, etc. using examples from nature.

The bare tree in winter - the blossoms in spring - the fruits in summer - the blaze of color in autumn: Nobody who would see a tree in winter for the first time in their life could imagine this transformation. But if there are such possibilities in nature, doesn't the probability increase that transformation can also occur after death? Nobody knows that, of course, but these examples no longer make it 100% impossible.

Including death in everyday life is an enrichment for children and educators, not a sad matter.

In the seminar work I can always see how imaginative, practical, how emotionally related and therefore lively, educators can implement the topic in kindergarten; encouraged through information and practical suggestions to bring in your own thoughts and ideas.

It's not that difficult if we're not trying to impose our beliefs on someone, but simply talking about the things we are deeply convinced of. About our image of man, perhaps also of God, and about how both determine our conviction and hope. Even when we report our doubts.

Questions and searches, being on the way, changing - also a form of transformation.

8. What should be done if a death occurs in your own day-care center?

In addition to the horror, horror and grief, many kindergarten teams react with uncertainty:

Are we talking to the kindergarten children about it? With all? How? How and about what do we inform their parents? Do we wait for the parents of the deceased child to contact us or do we go to them? What do we say Is it bad if we have to cry there? Are we going to the funeral - with children and parents? Can we help shape the funeral service? How do we deal with the grief and fears of children - but also of their parents? How can we live with our grief personally, but also as a team teacher?

If a child dies in a day-care center, it is important that the kindergarten staff is informed about this or that information is obtained from a reliable, reputable “source”. This has nothing to do with sensationalism. Affected relatives, however, often overlook the fact that daycare facilities are usually the place where children spend most of the day, next to the family. Kindergarten teachers are often very important caregivers for children.

Rumors and suspicions that come up quickly are nipped in the bud knowing why the child died. Was it a fatal accident, a murder, the end of a serious illness, an unexpected death?

Contact with family, expressing compassion

Before further considerations for the memorial service, funeral and farewell rituals, the responsible educators should visit the parents. This is certainly not an easy visit, but you shouldn't avoid it out of fear of getting too close to your parents, out of fear of your own tears (which can be cried with your parents) or great insecurity that will make your heart beat faster leaves.

Mourning people find out time and again that acquaintances, friends, even relatives withdraw from you. It is too difficult for them to deal with mourners. So in addition to being abandoned by death, mourners also experience social isolation.

In their grief, they are often unable to seek help themselves. You need honest people who will approach you, who will listen and thus be able to comfort you. Who also empathize and are not ashamed of their own tears. Kindergarten teachers are of course limited by their job. However, a kindergarten team can draw the family's attention to books, possible self-help groups and professional guides, including local hospice groups.

Book suggestions

Non-fiction books:

• "Taboo topic mourning, educators accompany children when they say goodbye, loss and death" by Margit Franz in Don-Bosco-Verlag (2002)

• "Mourning with children" by Gertraut Finger in Kreuz-Verlag (2001)

• "Children mourn differently" by Gertrud Ennulat in Herder-Spektrum-Verlag (2003)
picture books

• "Farewell, dear badger", from 3 years, Annette Betz-Verlag, (Fable, Death, Mourning, Memory) (1984)

• "Where the dead are at home" from 4 years, Tyrolia-Verlag, (Life after death with God) (2004)

• "Farewell to the little caterpillar", from 3 years, echter-Verlag, (The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly, dying and living on) (1998)

• "Grandfather and I and the story with the little kitten", photo picture book, death of the cat, later death of grandfather, from 4 years, Brunnen-Verlag (1982)

• "Does grandpa wear a suit? from 5 years, Hanser-Verlag, a child's perception of death and grief, a successful factual story, a book that explains and takes up many questions (1997)

• "Why, dear death?" From 5 years, Rößler-Verlag, No light without shadows: opposites are made clear (2002)

• Told about dying, death and burial to the children, mixture between non-fiction and picture books, from 5 years, Butzon & Bercker-Verlag (2002)

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Mechthild Schroeter-Rupieper is married and the mother of 3 sons and a foster daughter, educator, long-term freelance trainer and grief counselor. It focuses on strengthening and accompanying educators, carers and pastors from the social environment of children and young people and the mentally handicapped. In her practice Lavia Institute for Family Grief Support in Gelsenkirchen, she also accompanies people of all ages before and after an impending death.

Author of the book “Forever different. The house book for families in times of grief and parting. "


Mechthild Schroeter-Rupieper
Weidekamp 16
45886 Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Tel: 0209 17 02 777
Fax: 0209 17 02 880


Created October 18, 2005, last changed November 19, 2013