Saying Goodbye: Talking to Kids About Death

Q. My kids are only 5 and 2. Should I take them to my uncle's funeral?

A. Use your judgment. Although kids may bring comfort to grieving relatives, they can also be disruptive at funerals. It's unrealistic to expect children under 6 to sit quietly through a service. So if they go, take along a friend or a sitter who can watch them and focus on their needs and reactions. "This will make it easier for your kids," says Dr. Fassler.

You should also factor in the likely atmosphere of the ceremony. If it's for someone who died young or unexpectedly, the intense emotions may be difficult for your child to handle. But if the person lived a long, happy life, the mood will probably be a lot lighter. If you decide to let your child attend, give him a preview: "Everyone who loved Uncle Steve wants to remember all the great things about him. That's what a funeral is for."

Connor Shinberger went to her great-grandmother's funeral when she was almost 4. "We told her that she had to be quiet, just like in church, and that we would probably cry, because we're sad that Grandma Roxy isn't with us anymore," says her mom, Darcie, from Macomb, Illinois. "She asked if Grandma would know we were there, and I explained that we would only see her body, because her soul went to heaven to live with Grandpa and keep watch over us. She seemed to accept that pretty easily, and she behaved very well."

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