When a person who is close to your family dies, it is important for you to consider whether you should take your children to the funeral. This can be an especially difficult question when the deceased is the grandparent or parent of the child. A funeral may not always be a suitable environment for a child; however it is important for children to be able to express their grief properly. Each individual parent or guardian must consider this question for themselves. There is no real right or wrong answer to the question, because the answer will always depend on a large number of personal factors. If you are still unsure, you may want to ask for the opinion of the person who is organising the funeral. If you decide not to let the children attend, you may wish to organise an alternative “ceremony” to allow your children to express their emotions.
Very Young Children
If your child is likely to need regular attention, then it may be better to try to make alternative childcare arrangements. A screaming baby or a fidgeting child can be very distracting for the other people who are at the service, and some people may consider it to be disrespectful. Even if your child is normally very good at sitting still and being quite, they are likely to pick up on all of the emotions in the room. This can be confusing and upsetting for young children, and it may even cause them to react in an unprecedented way. If you choose to leave your children with a babysitter for the day, you may consider giving them an extra treat. Even the smallest children are very perceptive and they may feel upset too if they are able to pick up on your emotional state.
Understanding Death and Funerals
When you are considering whether to take your child with you to a funeral, it is important to think about whether they understand death and the meaning of a funeral. If you do not think that they will understand the significance of the funeral, then it may be better for them to miss the event. They are unlikely to get anything out of the funeral if they are unable to understand what is happening. However, if your child wishes to go to the funeral and you feel that they are mature enough to understand what is happening, then you should not deny them the opportunity to mourn with everyone else.
Listening to your Children
You should listen to your children if they say that they want to attend the funeral of their loved one. Being prevented from attending a funeral can actually be emotionally harmful, especially if they believe that the function of a funeral is to say “goodbye” properly. Missing out on this opportunity can leave children feeling as though they do not have proper closure about the death.
Preparing your children
If you do decide to bring your children with you to a funeral, you should speak to them about the things that might happen during the course of the day. If you think that your child may be confused about any aspects of the event, try to explain them to him or her before the ceremony begins. Try to tailor the conversation to meet their age, understanding and maturity level. It may be possible to find useful illustrative examples in their favourite books. Talk to them about the order of the ceremony, the importance of the readings and the sights that they might see in the venue. Explain to your child that people may show their grief in lots of different ways, but that they should not feel upset or worried about the other mourners.
Offering Children a Role in the Ceremony
Some older children or teenagers may wish to take on a specific role at the funeral. This may include roles such as singing a song, doing a reading or laying a floral tribute. If your child asks to take on one of these roles, then you should consider their request. Taking on an active role in the ceremony can help some older children and teenagers to express their grief in a different way. However, you should not force your children to take on one of these roles if they do not want to.
Following the Funeral
In addition to preparing your child before the funeral, you should also follow-up with them after the event is over. Ask them if they have any questions or need clarification about anything that happened. Speak to them about how they felt during the ceremony. Find out how they are feeling about the death of the person whose funeral it was. The follow-up stage can be very important for children, because it will help them to explore their emotions further.