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A petition has been organised to get the matter debated in Parliament

Graphical representation of adult talking to child about a bereavement © University of Oxford

The National Association of Funeral Directors say schools should be required to provide age-appropriate education to help children understand death as a part of life.

Dr Louise Dalton and Dr Elizabeth Rapa, from the Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry, research on communicating news of serious illness and death to children. 

They said:

“We are delighted that the Association of Funeral Directors are highlighting the importance of recognising children’s needs after a bereavement and not avoiding these sensitive topics. Adults understandably want to protect children from difficult or emotionally painful situations and often underestimate how much even very young children observe and understand about what is happening within the family (e.g. when adults are more stressed, or a grandparent is no longer visiting)

“Research shows that children want to know about what is happening when an adult they love is ill and that effective communication with children about illness and death is associated with better psychological functioning.

“Effective communication includes talking to children not only about the facts of what is happening, but also sharing and exploring some of the emotional impact of the news.It’s important to include children in conversations about illness in the family as soon as possible (e.g. after a diagnosis) so that they have time to understand and make sense of the situation before someone dies.”

The petition, which has been covered by the BBC, has secured nearly 3,000 signatures so far. The government would need to respond if it reaches 10,000 signatures.