Eight Important Considerations for Young Children at Funerals
Losing a loved one impacts everyone who cherished the departed. If you are planning a funeral or memorial service, you may need to decide whether or not young children should attend.
Grieving family members and friends may also be concerned as to whether or not their own children should accompany them to the event. Rest assured, this is a common question.
Below are some important tips and considerations to help you make the best choice for your situation.
Extend a gentle, open invitation.
Attending a wake, funeral, or memorial service can help children to process their loss. This can be particularly important for children who were very close to the person who passed on. While children should never be forced to attend an event that they are not ready for, they should be given the option.
Ask and answer questions.
Young children who have never attended a funeral service before will not know what to expect. While they may not be able to fully comprehend the loss, it is important to explain what a wake or funeral service is to give them an idea of what will take place. You might also ask your child what they already know about funerals and invite them to ask questions about things they are unsure of.
Set expectations for your child.
The tone and style of individual funeral services can vary greatly. These events can be celebratory occasions or very sad in nature and they are often a mix of both. Let your child know that they may see adults crying, laughing, or enjoying quiet time and that all of this is perfectly normal. If there will be a casket, you can explain what it is and how it is used. For an open casket visitation or funeral, it is important to prepare the child in advance by letting them know that the departed will be present, though not sleeping or alive.
Set expectations for yourself.
When attending a wake or church service, give your child basic guidelines and expectations for their behavior. Keep in mind the age of the child and let them know that they can take breaks if necessary. Not all children will be able to sit still for the entire service or they may need reminders not to run around, be loud, or pester other attendees. Also, remember that child bereavement can look different than that of adults. Don’t take it personally if your child is acting silly or seems unaffected by the death. Grieving children find their own ways of coping with loss in ways that are appropriate to their age and maturity.
Children’s attendance often buoys the spirits of others.
The presence of young children can be a gift to those who are grieving. Children are a reminder of youth, hope, and the joys of life. For example, if a child’s grandfather has passed, it can be comforting for the grandmother to be able to see and hold her grandchildren at the service. However, if your child does not want to attend the event, they should not be forced to go in order to benefit others.
Let them know that it is OK for them not to attend.
Everyone is different, and that includes children. If your child does not want to attend, respect their wishes. Not everyone will understand why you chose to keep them home but trust your decision that it is in their best interest. If they are comfortable doing so, ask your child to draw a picture or write a message that you can pass to guests who may miss their attendance.
Invite children to participate.
If you are the one doing the funeral planning, think of small ways to include your child. Perhaps they could offer a small token that can be buried with their loved one—a toy, a flower, a drawing, or a picture of themselves. This acknowledges your child’s sense of loss and helps them feel that they have contributed to the departed’s final goodbye.
Make everyone feel welcome.
When funeral planning, it is often appreciated by parents if you give them the option to bring their child. In some cases, the parent may only be able to attend if they can bring their child with them. You might also have a separate area for young children where an older child or adult can watch them during specific parts of the service.
We hope you find these tips and suggestions helpful. If you have questions or are still undecided whether your child is ready to attend a funeral, we are here to assist you. Please reach out to us anytime.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.