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HORIZON BLOG

Should Small Children Attend Grandma's Funeral?

 

Question

"We have had a lot of family drama lately regarding whether children should be able to attend mother’s upcoming funeral. I think my children should stay home, while my siblings think, “the more the merrier.” For some reason, the divide is creating a lot of conflict. 

I’m of the belief that it’s all just a bit too much for a five-year-old to process. I don’t want to spend my mother’s funeral answering 50 inappropriate questions blurted out by my small child. Based on how he usually behaves, I’ll spend most of my time supervising his behavior. And it’s not just my son; I don’t think it’s right for his cousins (of about the same age) to attend for the same reasons. Their behavior is just too unpredictable.

Out of respect to my mother, I think children under 12 should stay at home with a babysitter. They don’t understand what’s going on anyway. What are your thoughts?"

 

Answer

Funerals rarely have a single organizer who controls the guest list, like weddings do. Therefore, each parent gets to decide if their children do or do not attend. 

Since the guest of honor is no longer with us, you don’t need to worry too much about upsetting her. It’s the other attendees who might be bothered by a child that displays playground behavior in a funeral setting.

Each of us as parents needs to be responsible for how our children behave. My first child, while still in diapers, could sit through a classical concert or a fine dinner without disturbing any other patrons. My second child couldn’t make it beyond the first movement or first course, and we had to depart with a screaming child in tow. We learned very quickly when to have our children present and when not to, as well as when to remove them from a situation. 

A bunch of young children with inattentive parents at a funeral could be disruptive. If this is what you predict, speak with the funeral director about a diversionary solution for the children during the services. It could be a room with activities and a caregiver to watch them.

School-age children are used to being instructed and having to sit silently. Suggest their parents coach them ahead of the service.

Death is a fact of life, and children don’t need to be shielded from it. Most can handle a funeral with the proper advisement. Very young children are less predictable and coachable and may need to be in attendance for only a short period of time in line with their attention span. Some children can attend the after-service reception but not the service. 

Funerals, like other formal occasions, need to be prepared for and managed. You will not be able to completely control the situation. Planning for disruptive children with a solution for all outcomes could be your best option.

 

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