Involving children and families when someone important is dying or has died

Erna Haraldsdottir, Sally Paul

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The untimely death of a close family member is one of the most challenging events for families including children. This chapter discusses how a basic knowledge of child development and the ways that children understand illness and death can provide a template from which to inform families about how to help their children during this time and into bereavement. It addresses such topics as how children understand death at different ages, timing of discussions with children, decisions about the setting for end of life care and death in a family context, visiting the ill person, legacy leaving, and children’s participation in funerals and memorial services. By supporting families to anticipate common situations and questions, health and social care professionals can work with surviving adults to use their own (and the child’s) resources to provide thoughtful and meaningful care for children during this difficult time. This support encourages adults to include and involve children, using honest, child-centred communication during the illness period, at the end of life phase, at the time of death, and after death. Such communication is crucial for ongoing bereavement and family functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine
EditorsNathan I. Cherny, Marie T. Fallon, Stein Kaasa, Russell K. Portenoy, David C. Currow
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198821328
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2021


  • palliative care
  • child development
  • illness
  • death
  • end of life care


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