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Talking with your Children about your Mortality

As a parent, you spend your life protecting your children from the world’s perils. From their first steps to their choice of spouse, you do your best to keep them safe and to navigate them away from dangers and pain.

It's important to talk about mortality.

Role as Protector

After a lifetime of protecting, it can be extremely difficult to tackle such a painful subject as your passing. It can be so difficult in fact that many parents avoid the topic completely. While there is no need to open wounds where none need exist, there are some benefits to talking to your children about your inevitable departure.

There are many benefits to talking with your children about your passing, including:

  • Communicate your funeral arrangements
  • Notify them of important documents
  • Communicate how you would like your personal assets distributed
  • Answer unanswered questions

Trusts and Wills

While much of this can be handled (and should be documented) using a will or trust, there are significant benefits to talking through your will or trust document with your survivors and beneficiaries. Upon your passing, a lawyer or trustee will likely take charge of administering your will or trust. These individuals may be strangers to your children. Hearing your desires directly from you will help your children understand why you have made the decisions you made; it also allows them to ask you questions or to clarify items.

Younger Children

While conversations about your mortality are difficult to have with adult children, they are even more difficult to have with younger children. Normally, conversations about death are not instigated by the parent, but rather by the child. These conversations can very often lead to in-depth dialogue about your or their own passing. It is important that you are ready to discuss the topic of death with your child when it is inevitably brought up in their lives, if not before.

While your religion may help answer some of the questions, the discussion will no doubt bring up emotions of fear and discomfort. By being prepared, you can help minimize that anxiety.

Tips to Prepare for a Discussion

Below are some tips to help you start your conversation and be ready to answer questions your child might have about death as they arise.

  1. Mentally prepare yourself. Do you have unresolved issues with the concept of death? Are you able to be composed while talking about it? If not, now is the time to face your own demons, for the sake of your child. Since children will pick up on any buried fear or confusion you present about death, it is important that you are able to know how you feel about death before talking with your child about it. If you are comfortable with the discomforts and ambiguity that may present themselves in your discussions with your child about the inevitability of death, then you should be able to remain calm when you explain it to them.
  2. Be ready to answer questions, but avoid over-sharing. When you start to have a conversation with your child, do not expect to bring up a complex idea like death, and then hope that they will forget it. Just as death takes a while for adults to process, children will want to ask you more days, months, and even years after your conversation has taken place. It is important to be responsive to their questions, and do not get defensive if they did not fully understand your meaning the first time or even the second time around.
  3. Use this conversation as a time for bonding with your child, not a chore. While you should be available to speak with your child about death, nobody has all of the answers, and you may be able to learn a few new things together. You should avoid getting frustrated if they ask a question you cannot answer. Questions about death are difficult. Resolving yourself to answering their questions as you are able, but then exploring other options with your child as through avenues like videos and books will make them feel validated, and will help you open the gates of communication even more. It is vital that children feel safe discussing these important topics with their parents, and honesty is the most important foundation for this safety.

Children are smarter than we often give them credit for, and even though many parents worry about whether or not their children can handle an “adult” discussion, all children can, if the conversation is presented to them in a safe way that allows them to ask questions. If you are afraid of death, your child will pick up on it, and will also feel nervous about it, so it is important that you are mentally and emotionally prepared to discuss death and other adult topics that you may feel ambiguously about. If you present death as a non-fearful occurrence that is a natural part of life, in a calm and responsive way, then your child will feel less afraid of death, and be glad you are honest with them.

Mortality

Our mortality is a simple fact of life. In addition to talking with your children about the inevitable planning for it financially is just as important. From creating a will and testament (and/or trust), to purchasing a term-life or whole-life insurance policy, the steps you take today will pay-off for your survivors. While the emotional burden of your passing can’t be avoided, the financial burden can.

When purchasing a life insurance policy, be sure to thoroughly understand the types of policies, the options for their use and then compare prices by comparing multiple life insurance quotes to find the most affordable policy possible.

Take the time to have a conversation about your life, and your death.


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