In some cultures, family members and friends may attend a wake at a church or funeral home prior to a funeral. If your child has never attended a funeral or wake, it can be difficult to determine how she will react if she attends. Though age can have an influence on whether or not your child is ready to attend a wake, some children may never feel comfortable attending memorial services.
Appropriate Age to Attend a Wake
Children younger than 4 are unlikely to have the attention span to endure a wake, counsels New York University Child Study Center's Robin F. Goodman, a clinical psychologist. Call a friend ahead of time to arrange for a baby sitter before you attend a wake. It may be appropriate to take children older than 4 to a wake, though parents should let children make the decision on whether or not to go. Everyone grieves differently, and your child may prefer to do so privately.
How to Prepare a Child for a Wake
More than age, an indicator that a child may be ready to attend a wake is if he understands what he will see and expresses a desire to attend. Explain what happens at the wake and what your child will see, including the casket and whether or not it will be open, how others will act, any memorial services that will possibly take place and how long the event will last before letting your child make the decision on whether or not to attend, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is also important to explain who will be there to offer support to your child, like friends and family members, states Mary's Place, a nonprofit grief counseling group in Connecticut.
Even if your child is old enough and seems capable of handling this difficult time, she may find herself overcome with grief at the wake, or she may grow bored. You may want to bring a few activities, like coloring books, to keep your daughter occupied, especially if there are no other children her age attending the wake. Call a few friends or family members before the wake to arrange for a sleepover for your daughter if she no longer wants to stay. During the wake, you may also want to ask a friend or family member to help you supervise your child as you tend to your own grief.
Grieving in Other Ways
A wake may prove too overwhelming for teenagers while young children have no problem attending. Let your child know that it is acceptable to grieve in other ways, advises Mary's Place. School-aged children should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to attend a wake, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. You and your child can remember a lost loved one by sharing stories of the deceased, creating scrapbooks together or doing volunteer service. Not everyone is willing or comfortable with grieving at funerals and wakes, and showing your child that he has other options may help him continue through the grief process in a productive way.
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