Death is an unfortunate part of life and it’s also one that comes at unexpected times. While every parent would love to shield his or her child from the specter of mortality for as long as possible, the truth is that loved ones will almost inevitably pass away long before anyone is ready. While not all parents choose to bring their children to funerals, it’s vital that you make an effort to prepare your child for the event if you do choose to bring him or her. Below are a few things to do before you arrive at the funeral home.
Discuss Death in an Appropriate Way
One of the most important parts of preparing your child to attend a funeral is having a conversation about death. While this conversation is almost certainly going to vary based on the child’s age and development, it’s important that your child has at least some grasp of what is going on. At the very least, this conversation will allow you to gently explain to your child while so many people are sad and why someone to whom they have been close will not be around. This is one of the most difficult parts of being a parent but also one of the most important, so handle this step with care.
Explain the Concept
Another important part of preparing your child to attend a funeral is explaining what exactly goes on as a funeral. This will be an entirely foreign concept for most children, so make sure to put it in terms that they can understand. Let them know what the service will entail, what will happen in what steps, and what they may or may not have to do. The more information you can give your child, the less frightening the concept of the funeral might be.
Let Your Child Ask Questions
It’s very important to allow your child to ask questions about the funeral before arrival. Some of these questions will be about the format – who sits where, what they are supposed to do – while others might have more to do with the nature of death or what parts of a funeral mean. Answering these questions is a great way to help your child deal with any confusion or difficulties while also doing what you can to help your child to process the idea of death.
Finally, make sure that you give your child firm expectations for how he or she should try to act during the funeral. While this is certainly something that is going to vary by tradition and culture, it’s a good idea to let your child know that he or she should probably expect to be seated for some time, to listen to people talk, and to be respectful of the time that others are there. You should, for example, likely let your child know that this won’t be an appropriate place to bring toys or electronics.
Likewise, you should let your children know that this may not be the most appropriate time to interact with others as he or she usually interacts with them. Let your child know that above all else, this will be different than other gatherings of friends and families and that listening to you during the event is a must.
Preparing your child for a funeral won’t necessarily be easy but it is worth doing. Children who are going to attend a funeral deserve to have the process explained to them no matter how difficult you think the conversation might be. If you believe that your child is ready to be in attendance, you owe them not only at least some explanation but the room to process their feelings about something that may seem quite alien. This will be an important step for your child, so make sure they are well prepared before the event itself.