More parents open to talking to children about death in wake of pandemic

A survey has found parents are more willing to talk about death and dying with children in the wake of the pandemic, and believe schools play an important role

Over half of parents of schoolchildren say that they are more open to talk about death and dying in the wake of the pandemic.

The finding comes in a poll by the Ruth Strauss Foundation (RSF), which also found that more than two-thirds (68%) of parents are comfortable talking to their children about the subject.

The results of the survey of 1,002 parents of UK schoolchildren were published on the first day of Dying Matters Awareness Week (10–16 May), which aims to ‘create a space for people to talk about being in a good place to die’.

Ruth Strauss died in 2018 of an incurable lung cancer that affects non-smokers. As a mother of two boys aged 10 and 13, it was her wish to help other families have conversations with their children surrounding grief, death and dying. Her husband, the former England cricket captain, Sir Andrew Strauss, founded the charity the following year.

“It’s encouraging to see that so many parents feel comfortable speaking to their children about death,” said Strauss.

“Opening up to children and young people about grief, death and dying is very important, so that when faced by such difficult moments, they know that talking about it is ok – it’s not a taboo. We, as adults, need to give kids permission to talk about this.”

The survey also found that 59% of parents believe that their child’s school has a role to play in supporting conversations about death and dying.

It is a message that has already been received loud and clear by two independent schools with which Sir Andrew has a close association.

Among the many schools around the country supporting his late wife’s foundation are Wellington College, where he is a parent, and Caldicott School, where he was educated. Besides fundraising, the schools have been planting thousands of tulips which are now coming into full bloom.

As well as honouring Ruth’s memory, the flowers offer schools an opportunity to talk to students about her story, the charity’s mission, and the importance of being able to be open about grief, death and dying.

In related news: Winston’s Wish offers free bereavement training and policy template for schools

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