Talking to children about baby loss - for dads and partners
Losing a baby affects everyone in the family, including children. What you tell children may depend on how old they are and how much they can understand.
If your partner is physically recovering from the loss, you may find you are the parent who has to share the news with your child and support them at home. This can be especially difficult when you are also grieving the loss of your baby.
How children react to loss
Children are likely to notice when the adults around them are upset. This can worry them and they may show this by being irritable, angry or quiet. They may demand more of your attention and need comforting. You can help to reassure them by explaining was has happened in a way they can understand. Try to answer their questions and listen to what they tell you about how they’re feeling.
From the age of 5, children can usually understand what it means when someone dies. Younger children may worry that they did something to cause the baby to die. Older children may worry about showing their feelings in case they upset you. You can help your child feel comforted and included by involving them when you’re remembering your baby.
Speak to your GP if you’re worried that your children aren’t coping after losing their baby brother or sister.
Tips for talking to children about baby loss
- Let your child guide you on how much they want to know – be careful not to give them too much information at once.
- Let them ask questions and be honest if you don’t know the answer.
- Use clear words – for example, it’s better to say the baby died rather than they’re sleeping or lost.
- Reassure them that it was nobody’s fault.
- Don’t be afraid to get upset in front of your child – this can reassure them that it’s ok for them to show their emotions.
- Help them show you how they’re feeling – for example, by painting, drawing, writing or reading books together.
- Try to keep their usual routines and explain who will be looking after them – for example, who will pick them up from school.
Looking after other children
If you have other children, you might feel torn between caring for them and needing time to grieve for your baby. Or you may find that being with them helps you cope with your loss. If you need time alone or with your partner, you could ask family and friends to help look after older children. But be aware that some children may be upset by spending time away from their parents.
We have more information about supporting siblings through a stillbirth and after neonatal loss.
Looking after yourself
It's important to be kind to yourself too. We have more information about looking after your own mental health after losing a baby.
More support and information
- Child Bereavement UK supports families when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, and when a child is facing bereavement. They have a helpline, face-to-face groups and information resources for families across the UK.
- Naya's Wish provides sibling memory boxes for children after the death of their brother or sister.
- Sands has information on how to support children when their baby brother or sister has died.
- Winston’s Wish offers support to bereaved children and young people.
- Burden C et al (2016). From grief, guilt pain and stigma to hope and pride – a systematic review and meta-analysis of mixed-method research of the psychosocial impact of stillbirth. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2016; 16: 9.
- Child Bereavement UK (accessed February 2022). Explaining miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn baby to young children. www.childbereavementuk.org/information-explaining-baby-loss
- Royal College of Psychiatrists (2015). Death in the family – helping children to cope: the impact on children and adolescents: for parents and carers. www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/parents-and-young-people/information-for-parents-and-carers/death-in-the-family---helping-children-to-cope-the-impact-on-children-and-adolescents-for-parents-and-carers
- Sands (accessed February 2022). Support for siblings. www.sands.org.uk/support-you/how-we-offer-support/support-siblings