There are very few times when etiquette matters more than when someone is attending a funeral. This is why many parents leave their children at home. They worry the child might misbehave or make inappropriate comments. The subject of death is difficult for everyone but it is necessary for children to eventually learn this reality of life. Here is how to decide if a child is ready for this type of event and how to manage the situation respectfully.
Choosing an Age
There is no perfect age for attending a funeral that is right for all children. Instead, consider their maturity level, their understanding of life and death, and their ability to control their behavior. They are old enough if they are able to follow instructions about staying quiet and remaining in their seat and about refraining from asking anyone but their parent's questions about the service. They should also remember to do so only in private.
Ask Their Opinion
When children are old enough to handle the situation, it should still remain their choice about whether or not they attend. If a child's first experience with burial services is forced, it could make the experience traumatizing. It could also make future services even more difficult for them to manage. Likewise, a child that knew the deceased and insists they want to say goodbye should be allowed to do so. Funerals are painful, but they are an important step in learning how to let go.
Keep Communication Open
How much detail is needed when explaining about cremation services, funeral services, and what death really means will depend on the age of the child. Always provide the child with the basic facts about a funeral and explain about viewing the body and burials if either is taking place at the event they are attending. Be open to answering questions at home afterward, but do not force them to have a long discussion about their feelings. Most children are very adept at understanding these types of situations.
Attending a funeral will not emotionally scar a child. Remember that it was only a few generations ago when people were born and died at home. Many funerals were held in the home and buried in family cemeteries on the same property. Children were witnesses to all of these events. It is a valuable lesson as long as parents answer questions honestly and remove any child from a situation where they are visibly uncomfortable or if their behavior has made them the center of attention.
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