As a professional portrait artist and funeral director, I have come across some children that are not as well behaved as others. I do not believe this is their fault. I have observed children in many situations - sometimes with, and other times without their parents by their sides. I have found that even the poorly behaved child, when away from a lenient parent, will straighten up and act well. I have also witnessed that once the parent returns so too does the poor behavior. Whose fault then is the bad behavior? I conclude it is the parent's. Were it not so, the behavior would not change upon their absence and return.
At the funeral home, a poorly behaved child feels empowered to act at a level surpassing their usual tendencies. I believe this is due to the lack of supervision and preparatory conversations explaining appropriate behavior at a funeral. When an adult comes to a funeral, they take extra care to groom themselves appropriately; they take extra care to offer condolences, and they take extra care to assist their friends and family in overcoming the extreme stress of loss by altering their attention from themselves onto the survivor. This is appropriate and as it should be. Unfortunately, their attention and stress levels are so focused on the survivor that they will often forget to monitor their children.
I have written and published two books aimed at assisting parents to prepare their children for the experience of loss. The first one, "Someone Has Died, A Children's Guide to Surviving a Loved One's Death" addresses the emotional and psychological effects of loss. The second one, "Someone Has Died, Minding Your Manners at the Funeral Home" addresses behavior, and keeping children safe during final ceremonies. Whether a child is suffering their first funeral or their thirty-first funeral, a parent has a responsibility to prepare and review with them the psychological effects, as well as, proper and acceptable behavior for such solemn occasions. These two issues leave a child unprotected if not adequately addressed by the parent before attendance at every funeral. As adults, we prepare ourselves for unfamiliar, stressful, and potentially dangerous situations, why then would we not prepare our precious children for situations that may be psychologically damaging and/or physically dangerous for them as well?
Understanding and preparing for the emotions that accompany the death of a loved one is paramount for the recovery of all involved. Children are not excluded from these emotions; neither should they be excluded from preparing for them. Without proper information, education, and preparation, children are vulnerable to manipulation and other unsavory actions from adults, and other children, who might cause them harm. The psychological or physical perpetrator may, or may not share a kinship with the child. He or she may just as easily be a predator who is aware of the loss, or may be attending the services as a funeral crasher. The point is that children need to be prepared and understand that their - or their parent’s - vulnerabilities during this time, open the door to situations that may not be ideal.
Additionally, the behavior of the child should be addressed. Children who tend to be poorly behaved, well behaved, or timidly behaved may find themselves in frightening situations during the funeral ceremonies. Occasionally, surviving families have underlying currents of aggression lurking just below their threshold of control. If a child is left temporarily unattended when aggressive behavior erupts between overly stressed adults, they may be the undeserving recipients of deflection. A child’s psychological health, as well as their physical health, is in grave danger when this happens.
Children who are unruly or out of control at funerals tend to exacerbate the underlying currents of aggression in adults who are near eruption. Often, an adult who would ordinarily tolerate a child’s poor behavior will find that he or she is unable to maintain or manage their self-control. The annoyance from the poorly behaved child may push the stress level of grieving adults beyond their abilities of composure. As their composure erodes, they will lash out at the offending child. On occasion, the adult may physically attack the child. This is a desperately dangerous situation for children and adults alike. A parent who has failed to adequately prepare their child for acceptable behavior, and then fails to monitor their child during a potentially volatile event, may find that their child is the object of an out of control adult. This scenario will instantly become the focus of everyone in attendance, and families may see a division within their ranks that may be insurmountable for generations.
Recently, I attended such an event. The question at this point is which adult is at fault. A grieving human being is in a compromised state of life. Their work performance, relationships, identity, stability, and abilities to care for themselves all suffer during this time. Their tolerance levels decrease and their stress levels increase. No one ever wants to see adults attack each other – even more repulsive however, is when an adult attacks a child. Responsible adults in any situation other than grief may be able to control themselves. Unfortunately, the loss of a loved one is unique unto itself. There is no other pain as greatly life altering as death. There is no other scenario as violently motivating as witnessing an adult attack your child. It is incumbent upon parents to prepare their children for funeral attendance, both behaviorally and psychologically. It is a duty that may potentially protect the child's well-being and the stability of family unity for generations to come.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, certified grief counselor, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.