How to Prepare Children for Funerals

Coping with the death of a loved one can be incredibly challenging – Add children into the picture and funerals become even more complicated. 

However, this can be a special time between adults and children. The natural choice would be that parents explain the funeral to their children, however, other adults can also provide excellent support and perspective for a child. 

Give Children a Choice to Attend A Funeral

 If a child doesn’t want to go, their decision should be respected. This is a good time to ask questions and understand the reasons why the child does not want to attend. Are they scared about what happens at a funeral? Do they understand what happens? Do they have questions about death? 

If a child wants to go the funeral, describe the purpose of a funeral and what is going to happen so the child is prepared as well as possible for what they will see and hear. Make arrangements with a trusted adult in case the child decides they want to leave at any point during the service. 

Describing a Funeral to a Child

Explain the funeral process to children step by step. Tell them about what they might see and how other people might react. Let them know that crying, and not crying, is natural and ok. 

If there will be an open casket, explain what the body will look like. The explanation could sound like, “Susan will be lying in a wooden box that is called a casket. She will be dressed in her clothes, her eyes will be closed, and she will look like she is sleeping. However, her chest won’t be moving and her body will be cold because she has died.” 

Involve Children in the Funeral Planning

Depending on the situation, involving a child in part of the planning of a funeral can provide them with an outlet for their grief, provide support, and offer them their own way to say goodbye to their loved one.  

Ask children if they would like to give something to the deceased that will be buried in the casket.  This may be comforting for children to do and offer more closure for the situation.  

Explaining Burial and Cremation to Children

 As with explaining the funeral to children, talking to them about what happens with the burial and cremation is also important. This will ensure children don’t create their own fantasies about what happens after the funeral. 

Children may have a hard time understanding the cremation process. It is important they know that a dead body doesn’t feel anything so the person won’t be in pain.

Talking with children about death can be a sensitive topic depending on the child’s mood or level of understanding. Either way, keep the conversation going so children grow up with a healthy understanding of death.