How to Involve Children in a Funeral
There are many conflicting opinions about children and funerals. Some families feel it is not an appropriate place for young children, especially if the body will be on display or there are disturbing circumstances. Then there are other families who believe that children need the same closure that adults do, and that depriving them of the opportunity to say goodbye is not only wrong—but cruel.
Whatever your beliefs, it is becoming increasingly more acceptable for children to be present at a funeral…not only to attend, but be a part of the actual service. Although you will always want to take into consideration the child’s age, maturity level, and relationship to the deceased, here are a few ways that you can give children a place to actively participate in the ritual of mourning.
- Provide Paintings/Artwork: Children who cannot communicate their thoughts and feelings in words are often encouraged to show what they are feeling through art. Crayon drawings, paintings, clay sculptures and other media are all appropriate. You can help foster this by asking a child to contribute their piece to a collage to be put on display at the funeral. Not only is this a way for kids to express their feelings, but it also makes for a touching tribute to the deceased.
- Draw on the Coffin or Casket: This idea might not appeal to everybody, but some families (especially those who have lost a child or family member who was very close to the child) will bring colored permanent markers and allow both kids and adults to write their sentiments and draw pictures on a light-colored casket.
- Floral Tributes: Children can very easily place a flower on a casket or urn being lowered into the ground. They can also hand out flowers (the deceased’s favorite flower is a good choice) to mourners at the graveside or during a procession. It is a small gesture but an especially meaningful and moving one.
- Musical Contributions: Although playing a musical instrument or giving a speech is likely to daunt your young guests, most of them are fully able to put together a song to sing in front of a crowd. Ask them to sing one that particularly reminds them of the deceased or that means something to them. You don’t need a huge musical accompaniment to go along with it—the song playing on a stereo in the background is more than enough.
If there will be several young guests at the funeral, you might also wish to host a separate room where they can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or if they start to get fussy. Small activities (like coloring or singing songs) will go a long way in keeping them entertained when the funeral gets to be too much. If you have the financial means, you may even want to hire an on-site babysitter to preside over these activities while the adults are at the funeral.