Should You Take a Child to a Funeral?

We recently had a death in the family. Like most families in this situation we had to decide if we should take our daughter to the funeral.

I attended my first funeral at age eight. My favorite babysitter, Jeff, died in a tragic car accident when he was still in high school. I didn’t understand all that was going on just that I was sad he wouldn’t be around to bake cookies with anymore. He was an awesome babysitter. Should you take a child to a funeral?

In the end, we decided yes, and our daughter joined us on a cross-country trip to the funeral.

Three Things to Consider Before Taking Your Child to a Funeral

  • How old is your child? Our daughter was the only child there under the age of 13 with the exception of one very cute baby. The cute baby’s two-year old brother was not in attendance and that was probably a good thing. There were enough tears and trying to control a toddler during a funeral would’ve just brought more tears. Toddlers rarely belong at funerals.
  • How mature is your child? Not all kids are created equal in the maturity department. Frankly, I think my nine-year old behaved more appropriately than the 13-year old but I may be biased. Seriously, take a hard look at whether or not your child, regardless of age, can maintain a respectful demeanor. Without the aid of electronics. If not, a funeral is not a place for them to be. That’s not a bad thing. Really, it’s ok.
  • Does your child want to go? Please, please don’t drag child to a funeral because you think she should be there. As bad as a cranky toddler might be a sullen tween can be just as off-putting.

My daughter wasn’t close to her step-grandmother and had only met her a few times. However, she adores her grandfather and wanted to be there to support him.

That was the clincher in deciding she should attend.

If you do decide to have your child attend, discuss with them what your expectations are.

They should know that they’ll see adults upset or crying. That is scary for kids. Let them know it’s ok and they don’t have to be frightened. It’s ok to cry and it’s also ok not to cry. Everyone grieves in their own way. There is no wrong way to mourn someone.

Attending the service did provide opportunities to talk about our particular family dynamics and history. We talked of the things we want to be remembered for and what we hope to accomplish in our lives. Discussions we may not have had otherwise.

We found the good in a sad situation.

Would you take your child to a funeral?

3 Responses

  1. I come from a large extended Catholic family. Everybody goes to the funerals. They’re celebrations of life, not mourning death, and they’re a way for the family to reconnect after having been scattered across the US. It would be like not taking a kid to a family reunion. (Last one we went to, my son was 3 or 4. There were kids there both older and younger.)

    • The Common Mom says:

      I have been to services like you describe and they do feel like welcoming gathering to share memories. Sadly, that’s not the case for all but I think it would be nice if they were.

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