The Etiquette on Grandchildren Paying Respects at a Funeral

Teach children how to pay their respects at a funeral.
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When a loved one dies, it's hard to sit through a funeral without feeling sad and overwhelmed. If the funeral is for your child's grandparent, it can be even more challenging as you must also keep an eye on your children during the service. It's up to you to decide if your children are old enough to attend the funeral, but if you do plan to take them, prepare them ahead of time. Certain behaviors are expected at a funeral and your children should know what they are so they can act appropriately.

1 Attend or Not?

It can be tough to make a decision about taking your children to their grandmother or grandfather's funeral. Consider their age before making your choice. Babies and toddlers likely won't know what's going on, but school-age children and teens are old enough to pay their respects. If your children were particularly close to their grandparent, attending the funeral might help with the grieving and healing process. Your teenage children might wish to write and read a poem during the service, as well, as a way to find closure and say goodbye. If you do choose to take your children, dress them in nice clothes, similar to what they would wear to church. Dressing nicely is one way to teach them how to show respect for their grandparent as they say goodbye, but children usually don't wear black, according to Emily Post, an etiquette expert.

2 Before the Funeral

Depending on the religion in which the service will be conducted, the coffin holding the body might be placed in front of the altar inside the sanctuary or in a small room off the sanctuary where the family will gather before the service. Warn your children ahead of time and remind them that they are to walk past the body quietly and whisper their goodbyes. Have your children walk into the church or sanctuary quietly and take their seats without talking and playing around. If there is music before the service, encourage your children to sing along if the congregation is asked to participate or to sit quietly and listen. If other family members stop by to say hello, allow your children to greet them, but ask them to save conversations for after the service.

3 During the Funeral

The most important etiquette rule during a funeral is to be quiet. Remind your children that they are not supposed to talk during the service and that they should sit still. Take them to the bathroom before the funeral because they should also remain in their seats until the service is over. Bring tissues so your children don't have to get up if they start to cry. Let them know that crying is all right, too. The same rules apply if your family joins the funeral procession to the cemetery for graveside prayers. Your children should stand still and pray with everyone else.

4 After the Funeral

Most funerals conclude with a reception that usually includes a meal and time to reminisce about the loved one who has passed. Your children can sit with whomever they would like during the reception, but remind them to use their inside voices and to avoid running around causing a disturbance. If your children start to get out of hand, it's polite to remove them from the reception and either take them home or restate the rules before allowing them to rejoin the other family members and friends.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.