How to Prepare Your Child for a Child Funeral

A child funeral is a very difficult thing to plan for. But if parents are careful about explaining what will happen they can prepare children to attend and support them through the ceremony.

Younger children may need to be accompanied to the funeral by a trusted adult. This is especially important if they are too young to understand what is happening. In this case it can be helpful for the adult to take charge of them and keep them engaged with fun activities. For older children, a trusted friend or sibling could be assigned to help them throughout the day. This can be useful if they are likely to get restless or overwhelmed.

If the funeral is to be open casket, it can be a good idea to let them know what they will see in advance. It can be comforting for a child to know that their deceased sibling or parent will look like they are sleeping and that they won’t wake up. If the body is to be cremated, it can also be reassuring to explain that the ashes will not look any different than they did as a living person.

A key part of preparing your child for the funeral service is to explain that people will be expressing many emotions and that it’s okay to cry. But it’s equally important to emphasize that everyone will be treated with respect and dignity. It can be very upsetting for a child to see adults around them exhibiting uncontrolled anger, hostility or even hatred.

At the funeral service it can be helpful to give your child a special role in the ceremony. Whether it’s finding and collecting photos of the deceased to share in a slideshow or helping to pass out the order of service booklet, giving a child something to do can make them feel included and valued. It will also help them cope with the intensity of the experience.

It’s a good idea to bring a bag of things that can keep your child occupied during the service. This can include snacks and activities. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in case your child becomes too upset and needs to leave.

Once the funeral is over, it can be a comfort to have some time to yourself with your child to reflect on the ceremony and your own feelings of grief. It’s also a great time to introduce your children to our resources on grieving and death. This will help them to find the words they need when dealing with their own feelings of loss.