How to talk to kids about organ donation

Tips for having an age-appropriate chat

Want to know how to talk to kids about organ donation? The good news is that, kids often find these conversations much easier than adults, so follow these tips to keep the conversation light, positive and child friendly.

How to talk to kids about organ donation

From an early age, children will begin to gain an understanding of how bodies work and the different parts of their own body. They may also be able to name some of their organs. 

You can help them notice how clever our bodies are. They will understand getting poorly but then feeling better again. Point out that they can feel their heart beating, or show them how they’re able to take big, deep breaths into their lungs. 

From the time they start school, children rapidly soak up facts and information. You can use story books to show that some people get very sick, can be in an accident, or have parts of their body that don’t work the way they should. These conversations should focus on teaching your child empathy, and how our bodies – and other people’s bodies should be treated with kindness. 

At this age you might want to talk about how organs such as a heart can sometimes be replaced if they stop working. Explain that when someone is very unwell, doctors may give them a new organ from a generous person who no longer needs it. 

Gradually children will begin to understand that people can be sick enough to die. Reassure them that this is rare in children. Keep the conversation light and matter of fact when talking about your own death or if they ask about members of your family dying. Talk about real life examples of how organ donation has saved someone’s life – such as a story on TV, focusing on the amazing aspect of making someone well again.

mum and young daughter reading a storybook

What to do

Normalise parts of our bodies and how they work.

Explain how some people get ill, but they can recover again.

Teach and show using stories that are suitable for your child’s age.

Adopt a positive tone of voice and reassuring facial expressions. 

Answer any questions your child might have. Be prepared for lots or none at all. The NHS organ donation website answers lots of frequently asked questions.

Mum and teenage daughter on laptop together

Chat to your teens about organ donation

Teenagers are forming their opinions about the world. Encourage them now to make positive decisions about their own bodies and to treat themselves and others with kindness and respect. 

Your teen will be learning about donation at school. The topic of blood, organ and stem cell donation has now been included on the PSHE National Curriculum for all secondary schools in England.

But that’s not to say you won’t have to plug some knowledge gaps or set them straight on common misconceptions about organ donation. Don’t make a big deal out of it and approach it as a friendly chat. Tell them how you feel about organ donation and encourage them to share their thoughts on it too. 

As their parent, whatever your child’s organ donation decision, you’re able to register this on the NHS Organ Donor Register. They can also register themselves. But if a child dies in circumstances where donation may be possible, parent or guardian support would be needed for it to go ahead.

 Your teenager will also be asked to register their organ donation decision if applying for their provisional driving licence. Give them the right information now, to help them make their own decision. 

For more information on how to talk to your loved ones about organ donation, visit organdonation.nhs.uk

In this video, families talk about how they had the conversation about organ donation – and why it’s so important to talk about your decision