Children & Grief: 5 Ways to Help Your Youngest Clients
Funeral professionals are accustomed to working with adults.
After all, when it comes to pre-need arrangements or immediate needs, children are rarely involved. But that doesn’t mean children don’t have needs which should be addressed as part of the grieving process. For many years, families were uncomfortable discussing death with children and would ask that no children be involved in the funeral process. But that is beginning to change as parents embrace a more open and honest approach to tackling big issues such as death.
When a family comes in the discuss arrangements, asking if children will be present or involved will not only give you the opportunity to prepare for them, it also opens the door to parents coming to you for help. Grief support is a form of funeral after care that funeral homes all over the country are beginning to embrace as a way not only to strengthen their bonds in the community but to deliver truly superior care to their clients.
Ask About Children Who May Attend a Funeral
When making arrangements for the funeral, ask if any children are expected. This opens the door to discussing their needs and gives you a chance to plan appropriately. Families may have not even considered the attendance of children and bringing the topic out into the open before hand and having a plan in place will alleviate stress on the day.
Have Child Friendly Activities and Items in Quiet Areas
Add coloring books, small board books, quiet toys and other child-friendly items to your quiet spaces. In some cases, children may simply be there while their parents have a moment to themselves but, in other cases, children may seek out the space on their own. Plan funerals that may have children in a room that has a quiet room directly attached and show the room to families as they arrive. Let them – and their children – know this is a safe space if they begin to feel overwhelmed.
Brief Your Staff on How to Properly Handle Questions from Children
Every family handles explanations of death in their own way. A child may seek out a member of staff and ask them something about the death of their loved one. While your staff may be happy to answer their questions, it is important to honor the family’s wishes. Discuss the best ways to redirect a child’s attention and get them back with their families. Staff members can then share the child’s question with the appropriate parent or other relative.
Create Personalized Resources for Families
Families with children will likely have questions about how to handle their child’s grief. It is impossible to give them all the information they will need in order to navigate the next few months. Instead of overwhelming them with information during the planning process, create pamphlets and other resources they can take with them. You can create your own resources or use pre-made resources that can be personalized for your funeral home. One such resource is a free ebook and video available through the Funeral Service Foundation.
Give Families Information on Local Resources
In addition to online and paper resources, include a list of contact information for local resources. Include local grief counselors, support groups and other community based options to help people cope with their own grief or helping someone else. Whenever possible, coordinate with these local organizations and professionals to create something families can use easily.