Preparing your child for a funeral is no easy task. The emotions involved in this process are largely dependent on the relationship that your child shared with the deceased. Use your child’s feelings to guide you as you embark on this sensitive journey. Here are six tips to keep in mind as you help your child prepare for this experience.
Explain the Purpose of a Funeral: Before you attend the funeral, it is a good idea to walk your child through what this event will look like. This will help to prepare them to know what to expect from start to finish so that there are no surprises. This step is particularly important if there is a viewing involved.
Be sure to keep this discussion age-appropriate, being mindful of what may upset your child. In the end, you want them to understand that the purpose of a funeral is to celebrate life and to say goodbye and grieve this loss.
Help Them to Understand Death: It is likely that your child will have a difficult time understanding the entire concept of death. How you handle this depends on your religious leanings and other personal values. You may choose to approach it from a purely scientific point of view or you may want to lean on your religious beliefs to bring comfort and understanding.
It is recommended to be clear and direct in the words that you use. Using cute euphemisms or skirting the issue will only just confuse them.
Encourage Them to Express Their Feelings: This is not the time for your child to close themselves off. It is imperative that you encourage your child to share their feelings. It is also important to understand that they may not feel comfortable sharing their feelings initially. The only thing that you can do is to remind them that you are there for them when they are ready to talk.
This is also a good time to ask your child if they want to remember the loved one in a special way. Perhaps they want to wear their favorite color to the funeral, write them a letter, or memorialize them in a personal way that is reflective of the relationship that they shared.
Discuss Your Own Feelings: You can also make this experience easier by expressing your own feelings to your child. Showing emotion in a healthy way will provide a good example that your child can follow. It will also set the example that it is acceptable for them to fully express how they are feeling about this event. Setting a healthy example of how to express your feelings is one of the very best things that you can do to show your child how to navigate this difficult time.
Answer Their Questions Honestly: There is a good chance that your child will have a lot of questions about the process of death and the funeral. It is your job as a parent to answer these questions as honestly as possible while guarding their feelings at the same time.
Discuss the Funeral After it is Over: Do not think that your job is done once the funeral has ended. It is just as important to debrief with your child after the event as it was to prepare them in advance. Checking in with your child about what they are feeling in the days and weeks following the funeral will ensure that they are handling their emotions in a healthy manner.
There is no doubt that guiding your process through this loss and its aftermath is not going to be easy. However, you can help to make this season of life easier for your child if you approach it with compassion and understanding of their feelings.
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