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End of Life Planning: How to Start the Conversation With Your Children

Talking about end of life planning with your children is never easy. No one wants to contemplate their own death, and children don’t want to dwell on losing their parents. Nevertheless, death is inevitable, and not making end-of-life plans can make the experience far more traumatic for survivors. Additionally, if your children are not aware of your wishes, they may feel lost and not know what is expected of them. This is also a perfect opportunity to make sure that they know where your will is, which lawyer you worked with, where the paperwork is for your life insurance, where the key to your lockbox is, and other critical items they will need to access when you eventually pass on.

Don’t surprise them with the conversation.

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While it might seem easier to bring it up one day, it is best to let your children know what you want to talk about and make it clear the conversation needs to happen. Schedule a time that works for everyone and sit down together. Don’t try to have this conversation over the phone, text messages, or email. Meet somewhere comfortable for everyone as you may get emotional while talking about death.

Be prepared for the conversation.

You are going to need to be prepared for the conversation before it happens. This means knowing what you want to be done when you pass and making the decisions you can make. For example, you can pre-pay your funeral expenses and make those decisions for yourself. You will need to be prepared to provide your children with the information for the funeral home you chose so that they know who to contact when the time comes.

If you are not prepared to pre-pay, you can at least share your preferred funeral home and arrangements with your children so they do not need to make those decisions. You can decide your arrangements, including the flowers you want, the casket, where you will be buried, and the stationary to be used.

You can even choose the clothes you want to be buried in and let your children know, so they do not have to choose. As a mother, you can give your children a few dresses to choose from that you feel comfortable and beautiful wearing. As a father, show them which outfit you want to wear, whether it be a suit or another outfit. They shouldn’t feel that they have to sift through women’s dresses and jewelry and decide between stripes and lace when the time comes. This may seem like a minor decision, but choosing the clothes to bury your parents it can be traumatic for an adult child.

Explain your reasons

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Your children may not agree with or understand all of your wishes, so it is important to explain your reasoning. For example, if you want to be cremated, talk to your children about that decision and why you choose it. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of cremation, but they will feel easier about respecting your wishes if they understand why those are your wishes. If you want something specific done with your ashes after the fact, let your children know what and why. Have compassion for their difficulty in talking about topics like cremation price, choosing an urn, or contacting a crematorium. Losing a family member and having to handle their cremation can be difficult, even if that cremation is in accordance with your family member’s final wishes.

Write things down

There is no way to know for sure how long you will live or how much your children will remember from the conversation, so it is essential to write things down. Provide your children with contact numbers and numbers for the funeral home, cremation provider, florists, and other contacts. If you did not pre-pay your arrangements, write out all of your wishes. Include photos of the flowers, clothes, and stationery you want if you think that will help your children remember or ease the burden of decision making at the moment.

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