Published on July 17th, 2021 | by Bibhuranjan


Helping Your Children Cope with the Loss of a Parent

When a parent passes away, the other parent can help their children cope by speaking with them about the parent’s death and determining custody based on the child’s best interests. While it will take time for a child to process a parent’s death, over time the other parent can guide them through the grieving process and help them move forward.

In the process of helping a child cope with the loss of a parent, there are some specific steps that parents can take.

How to Speak to a Child About Death?

Following the death of a parent as a result of a fatal accident, severe illness, or another cause of death, the surviving parent should speak with children about the other parent’s passing in a sensitive, simple way. For example, the parent could state that they have bad news and simply say that the other parent has died. The parent should then pause to allow the child to process this information.

It’s also important for the parent to listen for the child’s response, which will be different from child to child. Some children may ask questions about the other parent’s death, while others may remain silent. In any case, the parent should offer support and reassurance.

Additionally, the parent should be comfortable stating their own feelings about the loss. This can help the child connect with the parent and make them more comfortable with how they feel. Over time, the parent could help the child adapt to life without the other parent while helping the child remember them. With sufficient support can care, the child will be more likely to healthily cope with the death of a loved one and continue progressing.

Determining Custody When a Custodial Parent Passes

In helping a child cope with the loss of a custodial parent, the non-custodial parent and other family members should determine who deserves custody of the child based on the child’s best interests. In many cases, the non-custodial parent would be able to gain custody of the child, but other potential candidates could include grandparents, extended family, godparents or other family friends, and the state.

Although the state is often a last resort, the child could become a ward of the state if necessary. At this point, the child would enter the state’s foster system. Once in this system, the child’s family members would be unable to choose a foster home or location for the child.

If a child enters the foster system, family members may still be able to visit the child, but in doing so it’s often best to fulfill the role of guardian. If family members take on this role, this could eliminate the need for foster care entirely.

Paternity Testing for Non-Custodial Parents

If a non-custodial parent wishes to gain custody of the child once a custodial parent has passed, this may be possible if paternity is established. For paternity to be formally acknowledged, a signed acknowledgment of paternity form will be required, along with the biological father’s signature on the child’s birth certificate.

The child’s biological father will be able to initiate paternity testing after the custodial parent has died, but he will need to follow the state’s specific procedures around paternity testing. The state’s child custody guidelines can help determine how to initiate testing in these cases.

When Third-Party Custody Comes into Play

Courts may also consider putting the child in the custody of a child’s legal guardian, family friend, or another third party. Typically, third-party custody may be involved if the custodial parent dies when it’s in the best interest of the child, there are no close relatives currently requesting child support, or there is already an established relationship between the third party and the child.

The decision to grant third-party custody lies with the court system, but individuals who wish to gain custody of the child could indicate their interest to the court, which will consider granting custody based on the individual’s relationship with the child and other influencing factors.

It All Comes Down to the Child’s Best Interests

Ultimately, when making determinations around custody, judges will consider the situation that’s best for the child. Parents and family members should also take this into consideration when helping a child cope with a parent’s death in general. Whether reassuring the child and helping them move on or determining custody if the deceased parent was custodial, everyone in the child’s life should do what they can to make it easier for them to adapt to this loss.

With enough love and support, children will have the ability to grieve and cope in a way that helps them live a happy and healthy life. This is why it’s necessary to take the proper steps as a parent or another loved one in the event of a parent’s death, from properly addressing the death to determining the best situation in terms of custody.

Cover Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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