A child funeral is often an important part of grieving and a way to say goodbye. Many children will never have attended a funeral or experienced a loss before and may not know what to expect. Parents should always give their children a choice and try to help them understand the circumstances. It is also important to talk about the funeral process in an age appropriate manner and reassure them that they can change their mind at any time. If they decide to attend, it is helpful to have an alternative activity that they can take part in if the service becomes too much for them.
Explain the order of events including visitation, ceremony and post-ceremony activities. This will help them feel less afraid and alone during the event. It is also important to explain what they might see and hear at the service, such as singing, a casket or urn, and religious rituals that might happen. It is a good idea to explain that people will be feeling a variety of emotions and that it is ok for them to cry or laugh.
If your child’s sibling is going to be present, it is important to explain what they will see. If there is a closed casket, be sure to describe that their sibling is fully dressed in a special outfit they helped select and lying comfortably with their arms folded and eyes closed. If their sibling is not going to be present, then it is important to explain that there will likely be a photo on a memorial table or a urn that they can visit. It is also a good idea to discuss any personal items such as clothing, a favorite blanket or doll that might be at the service.
Make a list of questions that they might have and be prepared to answer them in an honest manner. It is a good idea to rehearse the answers ahead of time so that you are comfortable and confident in your responses. It is also helpful to explain that it is ok for them to ask any additional questions.
Consider having a designated person to be in charge of taking care of your child during the service and to make sure that they are not left alone for long periods of time. This person could be a family member, close friend or a professional care giver.
Allow your child to be active during the ceremony by giving them a task to do such as passing out programs or helping guests sign a message board. This will help them to feel involved and important and it is an opportunity for them to say their final farewells.
It is a good idea to have some snacks and drinks available for your child during the visitation or ceremony. This will keep them from becoming overly hungry or thirsty and it will also help them to stay focused on the event.