Should Children Go to Funerals?

It’s a common consideration that many parents will experience at some point: Can I bring my child to a funeral?
Should Children Go to Funerals?

At what age do we sit down with our children and talk about death, and when is the right time to take them to a funeral? Firstly, it’s important to note that this is a family-by-family decision. So, there is no wrong or right decision in this respect. However, there are a few things to factor in:

Things to consider before taking children to a funeral

1. They may be too young to understand

Some parents may feel their child is too young to comprehend the situation or be concerned about the child developing a fear of death. Additionally, some individuals hold the view that it is inappropriate for children under 12 to attend funerals. On the contrary, some believe it’s acceptable if the child has lost someone close, as it gives them a chance to grieve and experience closure. There's no definitive right or wrong.

2. Funerals give children a chance to say goodbye to their loved one

Some studies suggest that older kids who couldn't go to a funeral may feel like they missed a chance to say goodbye, affecting their grieving. On the flip side, kids who are forced to attend might feel resentful in the future about not having had a choice.

3. It may be difficult for children to process the idea of death

Parents might be concerned that their child could become upset or traumatised, especially at the sight of adults grieving. Conversely, some argue that protecting a child from the reality of death doesn’t exactly contribute to their well-being in the long term.

They believe that exposing children to the concept, especially if they can bid farewell to a loved one, is more beneficial than keeping them home with a trusted friend, grandparent, or neighbours, for example. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice that deserves understanding and respect from others.

How to prepare children to attend a funeral

If you choose to bring your child to a funeral, you can prepare them by using language that suits their level of understanding to explain what they might experience.

For example, you could:

  • Describe the room by mentioning that people may be dressed in black clothing (or another colour) and that there may be sad songs or speeches.
  • Reassure them that they don't have to do anything they’re not comfortable with.
  • Emphasise that it’s not a place to run around and play but to let you know if they want to go outside. You can also bring along their favourite toy or book to help them feel more comfortable. 

Wrap up 

Remember that like adults, different kids will have different kinds of reactions to death. Some may feel sad, others – indifferent. It’s all normal! It's important to note that children may not fully grasp the permanence of death. Even if an older child has a decent understanding, it won’t match an adult’s comprehension. Therefore, it’s best to communicate with them using language and explanations tailored to their level of understanding.

If you found this helpful, you may benefit from reading our guide on How to Explain Death to your Kids.

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