How to Explain Funerals to Children
It is a subject that most parents would rather avoid, but when a family member or someone close to your family dies, it is an inevitable conversation. Children want answers about death and particularly the rituals surrounding death. The best way to prepare your child for a funeral or to explain the purpose of a funeral is to be honest about death and address their thoughts and concerns before the funeral.
- Talk about death and what that means physically. If you use the word "died" instead of "passed away" or other commonly used terms for death, children may grasp the finality of death more easily.
- Encourage children to express their emotions, and let them see you cry or laugh, however you handle death. Explain that people mourn in different ways at funerals, too, and every way is acceptable.
- Explain that we have funerals to say goodbye and to comfort each other. These are familiar concepts that children can relate to.
- Prepare children for an open casket. You, of course, are the judge of whether you want your children to participate in this part of the service. If you feel it is appropriate for them, you might explain that this gives people a chance to say goodbye one more time. This part of the funeral is frightening for children, especially the first time, so be prepared for questions and answer them honestly.
- Go over the funeral service in detail. Cover every aspect of the service, and be open to their questions. Children may get nervous at funerals if they don't know what is happening next, so prepare them ahead of time.
- Describe where the funeral is and what the funeral home or church will look like. Let them know where the body or casket will be placed and where they can sit if they become uncomfortable.
- Visit a cemetery before the funeral and talk openly about what will happen at the burial.