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How to Take Your Child to a Funeral
The death of a loved one can have a profound impact on a child, and should be handled with care. For kids who have not yet had to experience funerals or the concept of death, the ideas associated with these events can be frightening. Understand that there is no "right" age when it comes to allowing your son or daughter to attend the funeral of a loved one. If you believe that attending the service would help your child to grieve, then it is appropriate to bring the young boy or girl to the service. If you are planning on bringing your son or daughter to a loved one's funeral, keep these tips in mind:
Make sure that they will be able to sit respectfully
Many kids are not used to sitting still for long periods of time without a handheld video game or other toys to distract them. While these items might be acceptable to use in restaurants or while waiting at the doctor's office, it is not appropriate to bring toys to a funeral. If you are not confident that your child can sit still without a form of distraction, you may want to reconsider bringing them.
Brief the boy or girl about what to expect
Funerals are not easy for anyone to deal with, and can be especially stressful for young kids who do not know what to expect. To ensure that your child is prepared to handle the experience, give the boy or girl an idea about what will go on at the funeral. Explain that the occasion is a sad one, and that they may see the people they love crying. Note that this is normal, and that they are free to cry too if they are feeling sad.
During the discussion, you should also make it a point to explain to the child how they will need to behave throughout the duration of the service. Unlike a regular church service, they will not be able to get up and take a break out in the hall with Mom or Dad if they start to get antsy. Make sure they are prepared to sit quietly for an extended period of time.
Talk with the child about death
For many kids, a funeral is their first experience with death and mortality. This can be unsettling and confusing for a child. Help them navigate this time by explaining the ideas and concepts involved in a way that they might understand. Remember that the death of a loved one can be used as a way to talk about human biology or religion with your son or daughter, especially as it pertains to what happens when you die. You can express your own personal beliefs on these matters, and ask your son or daughter what their thoughts are on the subject. While your child may not fully understand some of the concepts that come up during a funeral, it is good for them to gain exposure to and understand this part of life.
Be prepared to continue discussing the subject
Funerals can have a significant impact on kids, and parents should appreciate and respect this. Your child may want to continue talking about the funeral after it is over. If it is clear that they are struggling with the idea of death or the passing of a loved one, spend some time discussing the issues further. You may want to read kids' books on the subject, or take some time to answer lingering questions that they may have. When parents help kids navigate this often confusing and scary situation, it makes it much more manageable.