Parents struggle to prepare for untimely death
As a parent of a young child, you so often hope and plan for the future. You think about things like seeing your child graduate from high school and college; you dream of being at their wedding or at the birth of their first child. Few parents, however, plan for their own sudden death.
A new survey by the U.K.-based Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) reveals that things like a lack of information, busy lives and reluctance to think about death prevent parents of young children from putting adequate plans in place for their children in the event of their untimely death.
“This research serves as an important reminder to adults of any age that preparing for our future and for the well-being of our loved ones is important from a practical and emotional standpoint,” says Rev. Stacey Jutila, vice president of mission and spiritual care at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
What to leave behind
The research, published in early October, marks the launch of the “Plan If” awareness campaign by CBN. The campaign encourages parents to create a plan that includes personal and practical things that would make a difference to their children should one or even both parents die.
Important things that could be included in this legacy plan to provide comfort, stability and security during such as a difficult time may be such items as:
- Plans for guardianship
- Family stories and letters for children to read in the future
“Practical tasks, such as making a will and planning guardianship can take some of the uncertainty out of life after a parental death, said CBN coordinator Alison Penny in a statement.
“And personal tasks, such as capturing family stories and writing letters to children, can provide comfort and opportunities to remember and maintain bonds if a parent dies,” added Penny.
Participants in the U.K. OnePoll survey included 2,000 parents of children between the ages of 0 and 17. Although one in 20 young people will have a parent die by the age of 16, the study findings revealed that 46 percent of those parents had not given a thought to who would care for their children. Twenty-one percent said they simply hadn’t gotten around to it. One in six found it too difficult to think about, and one in four hoped that such arrangements wouldn’t be needed.
Although it’s difficult to even conceive of, Jutila says it’s so important to not only consider the practical things, but also the emotional issues surrounding sudden death of a parent as well.
“Death of a loved one can be a significant event in the life of a child. When a family does have a loved one or friend die, it can be a good time for parents to assure a child that no matter what happens in life, there will be someone to love and care for them,” explains Jutila.
She also says that addressing the subject of death in a way that children can understand is helpful as well. “Whether it’s the death of a loved one or the death of a character in a story or a movie, it can be helpful to talk with a child about their thoughts and questions about the story and then share values and beliefs of their own family,” says Jutila.
“Creating space for your family to talk religious and cultural beliefs about death, heaven and the afterlife can also help to create a foundation of support,” adds Jutila.
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