How to Make Your Child Comfortable at a Funeral

Children grieve differently from adults, and they may not be ready to attend a funeral or ceremony when they experience the loss of a loved one. It is important to listen to their feelings and respect their choice to not attend a service. If they decide they want to go but are worried or upset, there are ways to make them feel more comfortable. Sitting down with them and explaining what a funeral is and what happens during the service can help them understand the process. It is also helpful to involve them in the planning process if they are interested. This could be as simple as helping them select a casket or urn for their family member or even creating a memorial website.

Providing a safe place for your child to spend time during the ceremony can also help them feel more comfortable. If possible, designate a room or corner of the venue for kids to play, color, or do crafts. If you’re having a service in your home or at the cemetery, ask some friends or relatives to help create and manage a children’s space. This can give the children a place to go when they need to take a break from the emotional energy that is present.

If your child is a little older and will be attending the funeral service with you, consider inviting them to write messages or draw pictures that can be placed in (or beside) the casket. This can be a way to honor them and make them feel connected to the deceased in a way that is meaningful to them. You might also ask them to find some of their favorite photos of the person and bring those for a slideshow or other presentation during the ceremony.

It is important to remember that your child will be experiencing their first encounter with death and mortality which can be confusing and upsetting. It is normal for them to cry and laugh during this time, so don’t be surprised if they show a wide range of emotions. It is also a good opportunity to discuss human biology and religion with them if they are interested.

Many parents have found that involving their baby or toddler in the funeral services has helped them understand and accept what happened. This can be as simple as asking them to pick out a teddy bear or doll to carry with them during the ceremony or as elaborate as designing their casket or urn to include a special blanket, toys, or sports team memorabilia.

Sometimes children will need to leave the funeral early if they become overwhelmed. If this occurs, it is a good idea to scout out the location beforehand and have an alternative spot that you can bring them to so they can stay safe until they are ready to rejoin the ceremony. Having a trusted friend or family member nearby to keep watch over them is also useful, as they can be needed elsewhere in the building at certain times (to view the casket or if someone wants to speak). This can be especially helpful if you will be making an announcement or speaking in front of other attendees.