When a loved one leaves us, the choice of whether or not to take a child to the funeral can be a difficult one. There may be strong reasons to do so, but – then again – there could be excellent (and very understandable) reasons to leave the child with a sitter. These guidelines can help you decide whether it is appropriate for your child to come to the funeral.
Reasons to Bring a Child to a Funeral
There are many good reasons why you might want to take a child to a funeral. First, consider the fact that a funeral is a gathering of family and friends. It is a chance for your child to see their extended family all together, which may not happen often. Also, funerals tend to connect the generations, and children provide a sense of hope for the future in the midst of mourning a death.
When considering the funeral’s potential impact on the child, the decision becomes a more complicated one. Remember, we know everyone will eventually have to go to a funeral at some point in their lives, so starting a bit earlier could help ease them into exposure and understanding of death. And when they learn something about death, they can learn the value of a human life. Furthermore, researchers have found that children, at least when they are old enough, appreciate the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones.
What to Consider When Deciding if a Child Should Attend a Funeral
While there are several good reasons to bring your child to a funeral, there are other considerations to be aware of.
First, how old is the child? An infant is probably too young to take to a funeral, unless the deceased requested it, because infants are simply unpredictable and can disrupt the proceedings. This is unfair to other mourners, and it is unfair to you as well. Instead of taking care of the child, you need the time to grieve with your loved ones.
The older the child is, the more appropriate it would be to take her or him to the funeral. You know your child best--is he or she capable of making it through the viewing and the service? It is always nice for relatives to see your child, but you want to make sure the child can behave appropriately and handle what might be a difficult situation.
How to Prepare a Child to Attend a Funeral
It is important to make your child as aware as possible about what they are going to face. This is a judgment call and, again, you know your child best. At the very least, you should explain in an age-appropriate way what death entails and that you are going to say goodbye to a loved one. They need to understand what sort of conduct is acceptable, and if there will be an open casket viewing, the child needs to understand what this means.
The Decision is Yours
There are certainly plenty of reasons to bring a child to a funeral, both for the sake of the child and the adults. However, there are some instances in which taking a child would be inappropriate. The decision will vary depending on the situation. Consider the relevant factors carefully so you can make the right choice, and if you do take the child, be sure to prepare them for what to expect.