So many years ago when my third child was a preschooler my aunt passed away. I asked my mother if she thought it was appropriate for me to take her along with my two older children to the funeral. She gave me the okay so I allowed my children to attend the funeral and the wake. Yet, you much understand, my family is resilient and the wakes on that side of the family are celebrations of the life not a dark atmosphere. My children did very well at the funeral. My third child was only about three years old and she was able to sit through the long service without a problem. I did provide a coloring book and crayons and sat in the back just in case she became bored or fussy.
The question of taking a child to a funeral is one that comes up frequently. Parents want to make the right decision for the child and for the people attending the funeral. Ultimately this will be a personal decision with no right or wrong answer. I have read accounts of adults who were taken to funerals as children and say it was traumatizing and accounts stating that not going was difficult due to a lack of closure. Perhaps the best way to decide is the relationship between the person who passed and the child and the maturity of the child. Normally, I do not think three is mature yet my child was able to sit through it and family was pleased she was there. For me it was the right decision yet it may not be for you. Do not feel pressure one way or the other. However, respect the family if they do not want children attending.
Etiquette If You Take a Child to a Funeral
If you make the decision to take your child to a funeral please make sure that it is not only the right decision for the child but for the people at the funeral. Those attending should not be subjected to a fussy child. Make sure your child can handle the long service and wake afterwards without crying, fussing, or a meltdown. Prepare by bringing a bag with a coloring book and crayons, snacks, drink, and quiet toys. Do not bring out these items in the church or where the funeral is being held. If you child requires these items then stand at a respectful distance or go the foyer of the church or funeral home. Allow others to grieve properly and uninterrupted. A wake is less formal and often there is a seating area for quiet play or activity. Be certain to watch your child at all times and not put the burden to watch your child on a grieving family member unless they offer.
If you need the time to grieve then perhaps getting a sitter would be best. It may be difficult on you to take care of an active child while trying to say goodbye to a loved one. If you cannot get a sitter or you want your child to be there then perhaps you can find a close friend to attend the funeral with you for the purpose of helping you with your child. Perhaps a relative who does not know the person who passed well will be there and you can ask him or her before the funeral if he or she is willing to help you.
In the end, it is a personal decision. You will hear arguments either way so you need to make a decision you are at peace with. Just remember to make it with respect to your child’s maturity and others attending the funeral.