Talking To Your Kids About Death : Taboo or Acceptable?

How do you talk to your children about death? Do you even bring up the subject of death in your house?

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It’s definitely not an easy subject, and many times we find ourselves forced to talk about death, especially with our kids, only when someone or something dies. I can remember one of my first conversations about death with my kids — when ALL five of my son’s fish died in 24 hours — which prompted a very shaky, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants explanation.  If I was unsure how to talk to my son about the death of his fish, how in the world will I explain it when it happens to a person he loves?

Truth is, as we all know and some of us too well, death happens. People die. Pets die. As adults many of us are afraid of death — for ourselves, for our loved ones. If we are that uncomfortable with death, imagine how frightening the thought can be for our kids. Although, there isn’t anything that can be said or done to make death less frightening for our children, perhaps we, as parents, can open up the lines of communication regarding the subject of death with our kids.

If we’re not opening those lines of communication, answering their questions, and filling in the gaps for them, others will. Take Disney for example — they’ve been doing it and they’re still doing it.

  • In the oh-so-popular movie Frozen, Anna and Elsa’s parents died in a storm at sea.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston meets his demise while fighting the Beast, who also dies before the last rose petal falls.
  • Nemo’s mom dies in the first five minutes of Finding Nemo.
  • Bambi’s mother — shot. Dead.
  • Ariel’s mother was killed by pirates.
  • And don’t even get me started on Snow White, whose mom died in child birth AND then she, herself, is placed in a glass coffin, presumed dead, after her wicked stepmother tried to kill her.

So, yes, our kiddos are seeing lots of references to death everywhere.

Our sponsors at the National Museum of Funeral History, located right here in Houston, are helping to bridge that gap and open up that conversation about death and dying between children and parents in a very family-friendly, fun-filled, real-life environment. From caskets to hearse vehicles, they house attractions that will allow our children to have fun while also helping to organically start conversations about what happens at the end of one’s life. It’s no doubt that explaining what a casket is to a kid might be an easier task at the museum, rather than when a loved one is actually in a casket and emotions are undoubtedly running high.

Unlike many museums in town, the NMFH is not located in the Museum District.  It is located just off of I-45 North, near Spring. Hear that you North Houston folks — no fighting 610 traffic or downtown traffic, and parking is a breeze AND free! Repeat: parking is a breeze AND free! It’s a quiet and, oddly enough, a very comfortable museum. The hearse collection that is housed at the NMFH is amazing.  Some seriously are breathtaking.

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I was so tempted to show you all the picture of the children’s hearse carriage described just above, but a picture can’t even begin to do it justice.  You all need to see this one for yourself, up close and personal. It’s gorgeous.

Thenmfhscavenger day that my husband and I visited, we took my 4 year old son.  He had quite a few questions, and was mostly interested in the “what is this” and, of course, the “why.”  The conversation did just naturally happen.  He wasn’t scared and neither were we.  It was a really great outing for us. We had the opportunity to let him see a casket, many beautiful caskets to be exact.  He now knows what a hearse is. The next time that I slow down or stop when a hearse passes us on the road, he’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. NMFH has even created a fun little scavenger hunt for the younger crowd, which is just another way to help the kids tie all the pieces together.

The NMFH ended up being quite educational even for me as an adult.  Did you all know that a “coffin” and a “casket” are actually not the same thing and not totally interchangeable?   Their Presidential Funerals exhibit is a great way to learn about the history of some of our country’s greatest — presidents like Lincoln, Reagan, and Kennedy. There’s a lot to learn about Lincoln.  Did you all know that his funeral took 21 days?  Or that the train that carried Lincoln’s body to it’s resting place was actually supposed to be used for his presidency {his Air Force 1 of that day and time}, but it wasn’t ready in time to so they used it for his funeral.   All that said, the NMFH is a great educational destination.

Next to the exquisite hearse collection, my most favorite display was Snow White’s original glass casket from the filming.  It was pretty amazing. Be sure you moms of Snow White-loving girls take them to see this display.

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The Papal exhibit was pretty awesome also. I can remember watching Pope John Paul II’s funeral and burial process on television in 2005.  This exhibit did a fantastic job of showcasing all that I saw on television then.  I love that people of any faith or culture can learn about what happens when a pope dies — it is something that reaches every corner of the globe, regardless of where you live, what religion you are, or what nationality you are.

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I truly appreciate the NMFH for opening up the lines of communication in my family about such a difficult topic.  We’re so fortunate to have NMFH here in Houston, right in our own backyards, but please don’t just take my word for it — go check it out for yourself!

National Museum of Funeral History

415 Barren Springs Drive
Houston, TX 77090-5918
281.876.3063
[email protected]

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Please Note :: This post is graciously sponsored by our friends at the National Museum of Funeral History, but all thoughts and opinions are proudly my own.

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Tiffanie, originally from East Texas, has called Houston home for over 10 years now. She and her husband met during undergraduate studies at Stephen F. Austin State University. They have one son, Preston {Jan 2011}, who was born with a very rare congenital heart condition and underwent a very successful open heart surgery at Houston's own Texas Children's Hospital when he was just two days old. In October 2013, Tiffanie welcomed a daughter, Hadley, into this world. She adores seeing life and this great city through the eyes of her children. She is a practicing physician assistant, passionate about Endocrinology and diabetes. Committed to connecting moms and families to all the fabulousness of this great city, Tiffanie started serving as our Sponsorship Coordinator in January 2014. Her days are now filled to the brim with taking care of her family, her patients, fielding sales calls, and scheduling sponsored posts. Her favorite pasttimes include drinking a full-bodied glass of red, retail therapy, a nice long run, and being near a beach - water soothes her.

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