Should You Take Your Children to A Funeral?

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Dear “And You Will Have Kids”,

A distant relative of my husband’s recently passed away.  Our children did not really know this relative, but I know that other relatives will be there. They have asked us to attend, along with the children.

 I am not sure whether or not to take my children.  When is it appropriate to take children to a funeral?


Dear AM,

The decision to take your children to a funeral is a deeply personal one and depends on a number of issues.  Many people feel uncomfortable taking their small or young children to a funeral because they are intensely sad events and may be difficult for children to “process“.

I personally think that it is a “good” thing to take children to funerals because it gives them a chance to grieve and to learn that death is a part of life.  I have taken my children to funerals since they were small for that reason.  As parents, our first wish is to shield our children from unnecessary pain and discomfort, but sometimes life doesn’t work that way.  I think it’s a good thing if parents are there to support their children during difficult times; avoiding issues sometimes isn’t the best way to handle things.

You mention that this funeral is for a distant relative.  The fact that he or she was not really known by the children might actually be a good thing as it won’t be an incredibly emotional experience for either your husband or your children.  Seeing a parent incredibly upset is a stressful situation for a child and parents can get very upset at funerals.

I think it’s important to prepare your children for the event beforehand.  Talk to them about what a funeral is like and the things that will happen.  For example, that the first part will happen in church, that you will go to the cemetery, and then that you will go out to eat.  If you have older children, they may have specific questions which you can answer.  If you are religious, your pastor or priest may have suggestions for reading materials to help prepare your children.

As with most parenting decisions, you need to “trust your gut”.  If you feel that you should take the children to the funeral, then do that.  If you have concerns or feel uneasy about taking them, then perhaps you should have them pass on this experience. 

I wish you luck!





Loretta says:

Michelle, I am with you. I have always taken my children to funerals and even with the value of hindsight, I would not change that decision. My mom lived with us for several years and I think that it was easier for my son (6 at the time of her death) to handle the funeral because it was not his first one. He knew what to expect. So, there was “just” the added layer of seeing mommy crying (but he has seen that before too). Children are smart and resilient and they take their cues from the adults they trust. My cultural and religious tradition typically has viewings where you can actually see the person lying in the casket. My son typically refers to them as if they are sleeping. It’s a personal decision for sure, but I’m with you on this one.

Michelle says:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Loretta!

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