This isn’t an easy blog post. Considering what a parents death could mean to a young child is painful, and a subject most people would rather avoid. However it is important that parents make a plan so if a parent (or two) were to pass away the child’s physical and emotional needs are met. While there are many things to consider, I am going to list two that will directly impact your will and child’s emotional needs.
ONE: If there is a need to transfer primary responsibility to someone else, who will be the best caretaker for your child? Here are two things to consider when drafting a will and things to question about a possible caregiver:
1. Their age and current state of health. Sometimes an older individual who is healthy will be a great caregiver, but other people might not feel up to taking on the responsibility later in life. The same can be true for a younger person.
2. Their financial means. If you have concerns about their ability to meet your child’s financial needs then consider a change to your life insurance policy.
3. What kind of experience your family member/friend has with children. Maybe they are inexperienced, but have demonstrated the kindness and ability to play that your child will need to grow.
4. If they already have children and how this could impact your child. For some children moving into a household where they now have brothers or sisters may be too overwhelming, but for others it might be helpful.
TIP: Don’t worry about hurting your family members feelings by not picking them or going outside of the family to choose your child’s guardian. What is important is your child’s health. There are ways for family members to take an active role in a child’s life besides having the primary responsibilities.
TWO: Another thing to keep in mind is what steps you can you take now to help your child grieve. A child will need to be supported in their grieving process if they are to have relationships and trust people in their future. Here are a few things to consider:
1. Have a discussion about burial plans with your partner. Do you both want the same thing? Do want to be buried or cremated? Do you want to be buried where you currently live or somewhere else? Do you want your ashes saved or scattered?
2. Consider how your burial choice will affect your child’s need to connect to you after you pass. Traditionally people go to grave sites or memorials to remember their loved ones and to feel the connection they once knew. Your child will need this experience, especially when they are in the process of understanding you are gone and are saying goodbye.
3. If you decide to be buried in a location away from your child or to have your ashes scattered, make a plan so your child will have some place special they can go to remember you. Maybe a tree is planted in a certain area, or maybe there is an alter dedicated to you.
4. Speak to your partner or decided caregiver and write down the plan in your will to help ensure it is followed. When someone dies things can get chaotic, creating this structure now will help your child in the future.
TIP: When your child is old enough and starts asking questions about death, it is important to reassure your child that if anything should happen to you that there is a plan.