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Sherri - posted on 03/11/2011
4 is certainly not to young. Death is a part of life. My kids have been attending wakes and funerals there entire lives. I will never shield them from it and it is definitely something they should experience and learn to deal with.
Jane - posted on 03/11/2011
I grew up in a very Italian family (I'm 51 now) and kids not only went to funerals but the wakes as well. It was just part of life for us...we had typically 5 generations of family members within our family and with that, there was always someone dying. I believe because I was always exposed to these things, I grew up with a very healthy attitude about death. Sure, I get sad when someone leaves this world but I also am able to adjust and continue to live my life happily. My dad passed when I was almost 17 but by the time he had passed away, I had already been through multiple deaths in our family which made it somewhat easier for me. I'm not sure what your religious beliefs are but use those beliefs...whatever they are to explain death in 4 year old terms and you should be fine. Part of life is death and I don't believe sheltering children from that is healthy at all but that is just my humble opinion.
Edited to add: I see some people think of wakes as something different than what I mean. An Italian wake is the 3 day viewing of the body in a funeral home. Just wanted to make that clear.
Becky - posted on 03/11/2011
There were several responses I agreed with...I attended my first funeral of a great uncle, who was electrocuted, at age 3. I remember a few things from it. I grew up (not in a funeral family) to become a funeral director myself. Part of what has made me so effective with others' in grief is my own healthy view of death. I see many adults who have never been exposed to death and how difficult it is on them. Children handle things better than we might think. Also, we, as parents, have the responsibility to train them to one day function on their own. My opinion is to take him. Why shield our children from what is perfectly natural and going to happen to all of us? Why keep death a mystery instead of using it as a teaching tool to prepare him for animal deaths as well as many more human deaths that will occur in his lifetime?
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you well!
Keri - posted on 03/11/2011
Take them to the wake/visitation, not the actual service. My friend brought her newborn and 14 month old to one of the visitations for my grandfather a couple months ago, but not the actual funeral. The interment was private/family only. My son did not fly with me from AZ to MI (because he is 4 and because my grandfather's death was so sudden), but it was also discussed that it would probably be better for him not to attend the funeral activities. Rather than finding a babysitter (and most of our go-to people were coming to the funeral anyway) my son and hubby stayed behind.
Gloria - posted on 03/11/2011
Wouldn't it be better for hm to know that we all have to die sometime and that his friend's time came because His body could not carry on and that they did not abandon Him. He was loved and he loved and that is what is important to remember abou your friend.
Gwen - posted on 03/11/2011
As hard as it is to say death is a part of life. Children must learn how to cope with death just like everything else in their lives. If you start young, they will learn how to accept and deal with all the aspects of death. They will learn by you and your other family members reactions to this death.
Make your explainations about this persons death very simple and on their level, if at all possible. Alert anyone who is around your child that you are taking them to the funeral so they can be prepared to answer any follow up questions in the days and weeks to come.
My husbands mother died when our son had just turned 5, but he had already been to the funeral home and funeral of a friend before she died. It was hard to answer all his questions but because he had already been exposed to this situation it made it much easier to handle. We alerted his kindergarten teacher of the situation and how we had handled it and when questions arose she was able to respond accordingly.
Today my children have done the same thing with their children and so far things have gone great.
Kimberly - posted on 03/11/2011
My husband's father passed away a week ago. We did take our 4.5 year old to the funeral home during part of the visitation, but not the funeral. We talked about how the doctor's were not able to help Grandpa get better and so he's now in heaven living with Jesus. I prepared him for the casket by telling him that when you go to heaven, God takes your soul to heaven to live and leaves behind your body. I told him that your soul is the part of you that has feelings, thinks, and makes us who we are on the inside. That way, leaving our bodies behind means that whatever made us sick or hurt doesn't go with us so heaven is a wonderful place to go. I explained that once you go to heaven to live with Jesus you can't come back. I told him that it can make grown ups very sad because they will miss seeing grandpa and that's why they're crying. I also have a couple of books. I prepared him for seeing the casket and Grandpa's body. He was really mostly curious and not freaked out at all. He wanted to touch grandpa, and when he did, he wondered why no one got him a blanket since he was so cold. I told him that his body was cold, but his soul in heaven wasn't, so grandpa was just fine. He had some questions, but really did a nice job. I came prepared with a bag of crayons, papers, books, etc... to help entertain him too. After going to see the casket (completely his choice) he went and drew a picture to give to Grandma to let her know how much he loves her. All in all, it was a very good experience for him. He wasn't really sad...just curious about the whole thing. I think preparing them ahead of time for what they might see and letting them know that it's OK to ask questions and talk about what they're feeling is the way to go.
Gloria - posted on 03/11/2011
Not if the child has been taught the cycle of life and that life and death are natural and the parents are not afrad of death or unable to deal with the experience themselves. My husband's parents both died while my childern were young and we had to go to make the arrangements.
They were taught that we are their childern and it is our responciblity to see they are cared for and prepared for us to say good-bye and make sure they got to go see Jesus the way they wanted to go. Because they cared for us now we care for them and someday each of you boys will care for your father and I and so it will continue. They were so great when there father passed and each death since then has been a part of life A time to grieve and time to remember and a time to let go and comlete the circle of life.
Susan - posted on 03/11/2011
I should add that we went to another funeral 2 weeks later, that of a church friend. Since they had just been to their grandmother's funeral, they knew what to expect and were immensely comforting to the friend's family. They were so pleased with themselves that they knew what to do and that they could help their older friends.
Susan - posted on 03/11/2011
No, he's definitly not too young. My mother-in-law died when my children were 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. They felt honored to be part of the grieving process and to hear their names mentioned in the eulogies. Keeping them away would have made them worry. Having them there, they knew what was going on and how we felt and it made them feel safer.
Monica Shirley - posted on 03/11/2011
My uncle and grandmother passed away this past summer. My children were 3 and 6 at the time. Neither attended the wake or funeral for my uncle (they did not know him well). they both attended the wake for my grandmother and I left it up to my 6 year old if she wanted to attend the funeral (she choose not to). I did the same thing when my husbands grandfather passed away this past december. She chose again to not attend the funeral. She will occasionally ask questions still and I try to answer only what has been asked and not go into much detail until she asks for it. My suggestion would be to take your child to the wake and explain in simple terms what the funeral will entail and let your child decide.
for what it is worth...my daughter attended 2 funerals when she was 14-16 months old. Due to both of them being out of town and no one to watch her I had no choice but to take her to both the wake and funeral. My choice was to keep her away from the casket (both were for family members but since we lived in another state she had only ever met them each once) but she did attend the funerals and behaved just fine. You just need to be prepared to leave the service if they become to disruptive.
Bethany - posted on 03/11/2011
I think it's fine. It's better to expose them now so they are used to this sort of environment. Unfortunately, death is a part of life and sometimes these situations give you the perfect reason to answer questions-as simple as they will be at this age-plus, a 4 year old can really brighten the mood as well.
Jwan - posted on 03/11/2011
I think it probably is. They see their parents and other adults crying without understanding why and they may become upset themselves. However, that said, when my own mother died, my nephew's daughter was only 3 1/2 and she did very well. My mom had a long illness, so we were not grieving openly. We felt she had been released. My great niece simply asked where her "old gram" was and we explained, in accordance with our faith, that she was now in heaven. She seemed to take it all in stride because we did it simply and without drama.
Maryanne - posted on 03/11/2011
I think it depends on the child. Althought it is better to take them to one where the person is not so very close to them for the very first time. . It also takes a lot of explanations and the promise of leaving if and when they want to.
Salina - posted on 03/10/2011
I feel that it is. My 16 year old did not go to a funeral until she was 12. Although I did not realize she had not ever gone to one until she asked me what do we do at funerals. I almost panic! I had to prepare her at that time for what happened. I feel just wait until he is older and don't forget to school him on what happens at funerals so he will not be traumatized.
Melissa - posted on 03/10/2011
It's really up to you. My son will be 4 in a few weeks and he attended the funeral of his grandfather in January and one for his grandmother in November. We talked a lot about it before the first one. We read several books about death and dying and I encouraged him to ask me anything he wanted. I prepared him for all of the sadness he would see and that grandma (and eventually grandpa) would be in a special box that would be put in a hole in the ground. It may seem like a lot to explain, but kids are really smart. He was a little worried about worms getting in the coffin, but I hadn't thought about that being a concern...he just needed more information and assurances.
I took some small/quiet toys to keep him occupied as well as his favorite stuffed animal and blanket in case he needed comfort. He turned out to be comforting to have around. Kids can bring so much joy.
Julie - posted on 03/10/2011
I think it depends on the child but most 4 year olds don't have enough of a concept of death to be bothered by it. My dad passed away when my son was 4. I debated if he should go to the funeral and wake (Catholic, open casket). We took him to both and he did fine. We explained to him that his grandpa went to heaven and then just answered any questions he had. I think if you let them process the event and are there to answer their questions but not bombard them with information, they can handle it. If anything, he provided a lighthearted break from the heaviness of the loss. Children do that for the grieving at funerals.
Blackwood - posted on 03/10/2011
In most situations I would say it depends on the child. First, this is a time for people to morn and be comforted, so therefore if a child can't sit still or is up all the time, then no. However if they can remain still then maybe, but what happens if there is alot of crying, how will you explain this too your child. It may also prevent people from showing there true feelings if they are worried about upsetting a child. I'm not sure if this would be a good place to bring a 4 year old. A "viewing" is more relaxed, but to a funeral service, it maybe too much for your child and others around.
Meg - posted on 03/10/2011
My son has been to lots of wakes, shivas and funerals. If your child knows the person, take them. I would bring a bag with some books, clipboard, paper and pencils and crayons. Explain that they need to be quiet. Services always seem so long to them.
Tamara - posted on 03/10/2011
I think its never to early to tech them about death and funerals its something that happens in life that you cant do anything to stop. When my parents had to put there beloved dog of 15 yrs down my 3 year old didnt understand but once i explained to her that she was very sick and the doctors couldnt fix her because she was at the end of her life span, she took it alot easier she didnt mention it for a while then every now and then you get "is poppa going to pick sheba up now" so i have to explain to her again about it, but she leaves it at that. I have also taken her to grave yards to show her that when you die people still care about you and you get to stay in this place so everyone knows where you are and can come see you and bring you flowers. Children are amazingly smart i think its better to explain to them than to try and hide it because if you hide this one then they will keep asking you where they have gone and why you havnt seen them for ages. Atleast if they are at the funeral they know where they have been put to stay and you can always go and take to them there is you need too
Good Day! - posted on 03/10/2011
It depends on how well the four year old knows this person. Children should be allowed to grieve. Just prepare your child in advance about death, and set clear expectations on behavior. If your child isn't close to this person, find a babysitter.
Theresa - posted on 03/10/2011
I think only you know how your child will react. Sometimes it good for a child to be exposed to death with someone they're not close to. They can see what goes on and can ask you questions when your not so upset about the death to answer. I would also ask, if you go to church regularly does your child behave there? You don't want your child loudly asking questions or interupting during a very hard time for the deceased's loved ones. He needs to be able to know to whisper questions and sit nicely during the funeral. If you do bring him be prepared to answer lots of questions. Death is something even as adults we don't completly understand so it's very confusing for a child. I chose not to have my 6 and 3 year olds attend my grandmother's funeral. It was more so I didn't have to be chasing after them when I was mourning. They did attend the visitation/prayer service the night before.
Ashley - posted on 03/10/2011
In all honesty I wouldnt take a 4 yr old.. my dad was a strong believer that funerals were no place for small kids .. not that he didnt like kids he loved them but he believed that it was too much emotions for a small child to go through we were never allowed to go with our parents even if it was someone we were very close to .. when my dad passed away I was 12 my brothers were almost 10 and 5 .. my mom felt that the youngest shouldnt go because thats what dad would have wanted was for him to stay home .. lots of the family were very upset by that but its your own choice right... me myself have never took my children to any funerals and we have had alot over the last 3 years also havent taken them to the visitations either .. my oldest is 3 so I dont feel that they are old enough to go through it yet .. but this all being said if you feel your child should be there and it will help them in the process of grief because they will be lots of grief if your child was close to this person then yes take the child and explain whats going on in the end its your choice as a parent to decide what your child can handle
Louise - posted on 03/10/2011
I would not consider taking a 4 year old to a funeral. Emotions are very high and for the close family members it is there time to say goodbye. The four year old is not going to understand why adults are crying and they are not going to be quiet and sit still in a church. If this 4 year old was attached to the person then I would probably take them to the wake but I think a 4 year old seeing a coffin and seeing adults so emotionally distressed is to much for them to digest. If it was my child then no I would not take them they are to young. I would not consider taking any child to a funeral service until the age of about 10 when they are old enough to understand what is going on and why.
Amanda - posted on 03/10/2011
I didnt have a choice but to take my son(he is 13.5 months old) to my aunts funeral because I couldnt find anyone to watch him, and I wanted to say good bye and be there for my dad. My son made it very hard to be sad, everytime he saw me or my mom crying he would rest his head on us and pat our face and try to make us laugh.
Laura - posted on 03/10/2011
There is no really compelling reason not to include children in funerals, IMO, other than behavioral concerns (child acting up, for example). As most funerals take place in churches that have child care facilities, this shouldn't pose a huge problem either. Sooner or later they learn about death and parents cannot protect them indefinitely from that fact of life. Kids are amazing beings that grasp concepts far better than we adults often give them credit for. Keeping explainations age appropriate, a 4 year year old is quite capable of grasping some of the meaning in this situation. Just keep language simple. Generally parents that try to limit any discussion on death have, themselves, difficulty dealing with it! Talking to your kids about death and answering their questions with an honest "I don't know" can go along way in helping everyone deal with the grief.
I love the idea of using books as a teaching tool! Reading together is a bonding experience anyway, and can provide a great way to re-assure the child with a sense of security. I'm sure your local library could provide help with this. Hope this helps and good luck to you!
Andrea - posted on 03/10/2011
Just an FYI: It's not good to tell children someone was sick and died, then they are afraid that everyone who gets sick will die as they can't differenciate between an acute illness and a fatal one. This article is very helpful. Funeral homes also have books for children. When my son died, we gave our nephews a colouring book that was about death that the funeral home gave us.
Kim - posted on 03/10/2011
I took my children to my grandmothers funeral a yr ago. My daughter was 1, my son 3 and my oldest son was 9. My nieces and nephew were also there. We just explained that she got sick and went to meet God.
Wanda - posted on 03/09/2011
I took my 2 yr old to his great grandfathers funeral. My cousin had her 3 and 4 yr olds there as well. I don't see a problem with it at all. All three children were very well behaved, it was like they picked up on the sombre mood and knew that this wasn't the time to act up. I liked Jodi's suggestion of he books.
Laura - posted on 03/09/2011
It may be a problem. Young children are very active and talkative. They enjoy life, fun and playing. It may be hard for the child to understand why people are crying or getting upset when he wants to play.
Jodi - posted on 03/09/2011
If you are concerned about him understanding it, there are books available to help you with that. My step-son lost a baby brother several years ago (he was about 4 or 5 at the time), and we borrowed some books from the local SIDS & Kids library to help us help him (1) understand and (2) with his grief. Because kids DO grieve differently than we do.
For the life of me I can't remember the names of the books, but they were very helpful in helping a child understand the death of someone close at a level they could comprehend.
Rachel - posted on 03/09/2011
he has known this guy since he was about 2 months old and has been at his house like 2 times a week since then for almost 4 years. i have never taken him to any funeral and i have been to about 4 in the past year. i just dont know how he will take it. he is a very smart child but doesnt understand y he hasent seen a guy who is his friend. they play together even though the guy is disabled he has always adored my son and my son loves him. I think i might take him. I also have a 1 year old and i have to take her too but she doesnt even really no the guy cause she is so young. The only one i am worried about is my son. he has lost a few people that were pretty close to him and they just kind of go away he doesnt know where they go.
Jodi - posted on 03/09/2011
Unless it is close family, I don't think you should take him. We had a friend of the family die last year, and I took my son (he was friends with her son) who was 12 at the time, but I didn't take my daughter, who was 5. I just didn't think it was necessary. I picked her up from school after the funeral and took her to the wake, which was more a celebration of her life, and my daughter was able to take that in, but I don't think the funeral was necessary. She was sad, and we talked about it, and she was able to be at the wake, but just not the funeral.