Death is an aspect of life that toddlers have to deal with at some point. Be it a pet or grandparent, even the smallest of us are touched by death in some way, so approaching the subject with your toddler is something you cannot avoid forever. There are many ways to discuss death and dying, and the funeral ritual is another aspect of that process that toddlers will be a part of. Although people may cringe when they see you walk into the church or chapel with your tots, your planning and preparation will impress them and make them happy for the distraction of your precious tykes on an otherwise sad day.
Open a discussion about death with your toddler through the use of a storybook that is age appropriate. Books like “Remembering Crystal” by Sebastian Loth or “The Two of Them” by Aliki talk about death in a way little ones can understand, helping you prepare your kids for the funeral activities. Better have some tissues ready, these books are tearjerkers!
Run through the rules of good behavior with your tot before you go to the funeral service. Older toddlers understand that being quiet (with no running or screaming indoors) is respectful behavior during events with adults. Toss a bribe of an ice cream afterwards in there as well for good measure.
Tire out the toddlers before you leave. Let them play in the morning before getting dressed for the funeral and burn off some of their excess energy before leaving for the day. Funeral services or wakes are quiet, slow events and toddlers with a lot of extra energy will be harder to control.
Watch the sugar intake before you attend the funeral as well. Although many wakes and services serve cookies and snacks for those attending for many hours, you don’t want your tot on a sugar buzz before you arrive at a somber event. Have a few sensible snacks in your purse for later in the day.
Bring along coloring books and small plush toys for toddlers to play with quietly when they get bored or antsy. Everyone understands that toddlers cannot sit still for events such as a funeral, and no one will be offended if you break out the crayons at the wake.
Take two cars. Be prepared to leave with the toddlers if you need to, but leave your spouse or partner there to represent the family.
Sit near the rear of the church or chapel for the funeral service or in a "crying room” specifically for parents with infants or tots if you feel your toddlers are getting cranky and rambunctious. The family of the departed will appreciate a quiet exit from the church.