Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 09.29.2022

How to Explain Cremation to a Child or Teen: Step-By-Step

How to Explain Cremation to a Child or Teen: Step-By-Step

Reviewed By: Scott Ginsberg

Cross Checked By: Joshua Siegel


The impact of cremation on young minds.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be hard even for adults. The grief and the sense of loss are overwhelming and take time to come to terms with. Therefore, it is understandable that the impact of cremation on a child or a teen can be complex. They can experience a wide range of emotions such as confusion, sadness, anger, and frustration. For children, it is probably their first-time encountering death.

As a parent or a guardian, it is important to understand what and how to communicate with a young child. How your child deals with loss at this stage of life can have a lasting impact on their psyche. With some patience and courage, healthy communication can take place even about a topic as sensitive as death.

General advice while discussing cremation with young minds.

It is important to prepare yourself before starting such a sensitive conversation. Your child may have many questions which may appear inappropriate. But you need to remember that they’re curious and confused about this fact of life. It’s better if you allow them to question since it can help them learn and process the reality of death smoothly, in the long run. Try to keep things simple and honest with them.

It can also be the case that your child isn’t interested or perhaps, isn’t ready for such a conversation. In this situation, it is a good idea to be patient and have the conversation at a later stage in life. If you feel emotionally vulnerable or unprepared, then please do not hesitate in asking a family member or a trusted friend for help. Stay calm and try to keep your emotions under control while speaking with your child.

Steps for explaining cremation to a child.

It is important that you keep your words simple and honest, but at the same time, sensitive enough to not scare your child. Here are a few steps you may follow –

  1. The first step is explaining the finality of death to your child - Every living being, be it a plant or an animal or human, dies one day. Coming to grips with this truth is an important milestone toward emotional growth. You may offer religious explanations depending upon your culture, and the maturity level of your child.
  2. Keep the language honest - Euphemisms like the deceased person have gone to permanent sleep are misleading and may also trigger fear in the child.
  3. It’s okay to let your child see you grieve if you think they're mature enough. Children follow their parents’ examples of behavior. Hence, even if you’re grieving, try to remain calm and composed to set a healthy example.
  4. Give your child the space to ask questions. A few common questions are – what is cremation? Or how does an adult fit into a small cremation casket? Try to not appear shocked and try to respond to their questions with respect and honesty.
  5. You can help your child remember their loved one. It can be as simple as keeping the ashes of the deceased in an urn or planting a sapling and sprinkling some of the ashes in it. You can also follow your own spiritual or religious ritual, but be careful that it is not scary for the child.
  6. If you feel overwhelmed with the entire process, then please feel open to getting help from a qualified grief counselor. A counselor can help you as well as your child in accepting and processing the loss. You can also consult them for specific tips on communicating grief with your child.

Tips for explaining cremation to a teenager.

Teenagers are much more mature than children, but still not fully developed adults. They might already be aware of death as well as your religious customs. But still, they can have confusing emotions when a loved one passes away and may require your help in processing them.

You should treat your teen like a young adult rather than a child. They need to feel like they deserve respect and recognition. At their age, they’re much better equipped to deal with the truth.