Hi, this is Jenna and thanks for submitting this great question:
Should we take children to a funeral?
In American culture, we do not typically do a really good job of helping children to understand the process of death and dying or knowing how to grieve a loss. So, actually, a funeral, particularly if it is for someone who they weren’t immediately close to can really help children become familiar with that process of death and dying and grief and loss and understand that we do have ceremony and a place to create closure and some degree of healing; along with the grief. And, to kind of normalize that. Other cultures tend to do this a little bit more automatically than we do in American culture so that can be valuable.
But there are other things we want to take into consideration. First of all and perhaps most importantly the child’s preferences. For a
a child who’s old enough to say, we want to ask them if they would like to go explain what the purpose of the funeral is and what to expect and what types of emotions they might be feeling. This is true, whether they go to the funeral or don’t go to the funeral. We want to help them to understand their feelings around grief and loss as well.
If a child doesn’t want to attend, we probably want to honor that. If a child does want to attend we want to honor that as well.
As long as they are old enough to sit quietly and respectfully in the service, and if we are ourselves are in too much grief to attend to their grieving needs, we want to have somebody present who can be there for the child, if we’re not in that moment going to be able to.
It is important to normalize the experience of death and dying for our children and help them to name their grief and walk through the loss. So, particularly if the person who passed away is someone that they knew, we would like to give them the opportunity if at all possible to make their own decision about attending. Keep in mind, you’re going to know your child best and your unique circumstances best.
These are a couple of quick tips to help you think through this initial stages of the decision making