Taking your child to his or her first funeral can be a challenging experience. While some children will hardly know what's happening, others can be distraught by the tangible grief in the room. The age at which it's appropriate to expose your child to a funeral depends largely on the child—some children will be ready for the experience when they're young and others will not. When you finally decide to have your child accompany you to the funeral home, here are three things to remember that can help make the process go smoother.
Visit In Advance If You Can
If your child typically struggles with new environments, consider visiting the funeral home a day or two before the actual service. Call the funeral home to see if such a visit is possible. You don't have to stay for long—just long enough to walk through the building and allow the child to get a little familiar with the rooms and hallways. This simple step can mean that when it comes time to attend the service, your child will feel more familiar entering the building and might be less uneasy.
Don't Leave The Child Alone
Given that the entire funeral experience can seem overwhelming for your child, it's important to avoid leaving the child on his or her own. While alone, the gravity of the situation can hit your child and cause undue stress. Plan to keep your child at your side for as much of the event as possible. If you're going to be called away, whether it's to deliver a eulogy or view the open casket and you don't want your child to be present, ensure that you have a trusted adult who can stay with your child. Throughout the visitation and the reception after the funeral, you can often benefit from standing around parents with similar-aged children, as being near peers can make the process more comfortable for your child.
Hugs Are Always Welcome
One of the main elements of attending a funeral is offering your sympathy to the bereaved family. When attending with a young child, don't force the child to remember a message of sympathy to deliver. Doing so can add stress to an already challenging situation for the child. Instead, if you're close enough to the family, remind your child to give each family member a hug. This is something the child can easily remember to do and the family members will appreciate the supportive gesture.