Should I Bring My Kids to a Funeral?
By Rachel Schmoyer
There has been a death in your family or in your community.
Should you bring your kids to the funeral?
Here are some things to consider:
Kids need time to grieve too. One of the big reasons to have a funeral is to grieve together. Kids need opportunity to grieve in community, too. A funeral gives your child time to revisit the favorite memories of the person and gives them a chance to have some closure, too.
It’s okay to let kids be sad. Sometimes I hear families say they don’t want to bring the kids, so they aren’t saddened by the funeral. However, parents do not need to shield their children from sadness. Sadness is important and a part of life. A funeral is an appropriate place to be sad.
Kids need time to think about life and death. Funerals are a great time for your children to learn about life and death especially for Christians who believe in eternal life. If you are sure that the person who passed away believed in Jesus as their Savior, the funeral can open conversation about how you know the person is now in heaven with Jesus because they believed in Him.
Kids need an opportunity to learn what a funeral is like and what behavior is expected there. It is developmentally inappropriate to expect a toddler or young preschooler to sit through a funeral service quietly. However, if the funeral is a family funeral, you may want to bring your young child anyway so the family can all be together. If that is the case, you may want to recruit a babysitter or a friend to come with you to the funeral to help walk your toddler around when they become antsy.
Children who are pre-kindergarten or older are able to learn and understand how to sit quietly and respectfully at a funeral service. Include them in signing the funeral guest book, greeting the family, and taking time to look at the pictures and other mementos that are displayed.
Funerals are an important time for a family to be together. Bringing the children to the funeral will allow them to be part of the family gathering. Will the surviving family members be hurt if the kids do not come? Kids who attend a family funeral can be a comfort. Funerals are an opportunity for the heritage of the family to be passed on to the next generation as kids listen to family memories and meet extended family members.
If you decide to bring your kids to a funeral, here are some helpful tips:
Bring them to the funeral of an acquaintance first. If you have opportunity, it is easier for kids to experience a funeral for the first time for someone they did not know well. The first funeral we took our kids to was the funeral of a dear older women from our church. Our kids knew who she was but they were not close to her. I decided to take the kids to her funeral so they could observe a traditional funeral and learn what it
was like during a time when they were not actively grieving.
Prepare them ahead of time about what to expect. Tell them to walk in the building together with you. The first thing you do is sign the funeral guest book. Next, you greet the family. Let them know that there may be people there who will be crying or upset. If there will be an open casket, let the children know what that will look like.
Do not force the children to approach the open casket if they do not want to. Let them decide whether they are comfortable or not with coming close.
Let them bring something to do. This is especially helpful if there is a long greeting time before hand.
Check their understanding. After the funeral ask them if there was anything they didn’t understand. Ask them how they felt during a particular part of the service. Be free to share your own feelings about when you felt sad or when you felt nostalgic. Sharing your own feelings can help your children open up about their own. Don’t expect your children to feel the same exact way you did during the service. They had a different relationship with the person than you did. Respect your child’s feelings if they were different than yours.
What do you think? Do you think children should attend funerals? Comment below and let us know!
About the Author
Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and mom of four. She blogs about finding simple truths in complex passages of Scripture at Read the Hard Parts. She also writes about parenting and other adventures at Rachel Schmoyer Writes. If she is not writing, she is probably reading, most likely a biography of one of the First Ladies of the United States.
You can connect with Rachel online on Twitter.
You can read Rachel's "Family Life" column on the 4th Monday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.