Children at a Funeral
Many parents struggle with deciding whether or not to bring children to a funeral. All children need to learn to grieve and manage their feelings.
Children, contrary to popular thought, do have a concept of death. Young children often do not realize that death or dying means that someone or something is never coming back, but they do see death, all around them with pets, seeing it on television, or hearing it in family discussions.
If the deceased is immediately related (father, mother, brother, sister, grandparent) to the child, it is almost always appropriate to bring the child. In cases where the child is an infant, they are almost always welcome at funerals. If the infant is mild mannered (not colic) or is fully dependent on you for something such as nursing, most people do not mind the child being in attendance regardless of the relation to the deceased.
Explain to a child the process of a funeral and what they might see at the funeral. Then follow up with asking your child if he/she has any questions. This is most affective with children experiencing death for the first time between the ages of eight and 12 years.
If your child has a history of poor behavior or acting out, you might need to prepare them well in advance by telling them what your expectations will be of them while at the funeral and by letting them know what the consequences will be if they do not behave appropriately. If you anticipate that your child might act out, but you choose to bring them along anyway, you should be prepared with a backup plan. Possibly call a friend ahead of time and request that they remain available to pick up the child from the funeral home if they either become uncontrollably upset, or if they are simply acting inappropriately.
When a parent is sidetracked and not paying full attention to their child, the child may begin acting out. This is something that is normally fully accepted in situations where the deceased is your parent, or your sibling. If the deceased is a distant relative or something similar, you may find some discomfort among other guests if your child is left unattended; in this case you might consider leaving your child with a babysitter while you attend the funeral.