Should Children Go To Funerals?
When it comes to children attending funerals, there are lots of things to consider. Some parents worry their child may struggle to understand what’s going on, or that they will be disruptive during the ceremony. Although these are completely valid thoughts, teaching your child about death, loss and funerals can help prepare them for later in life.
If you are currently deciding whether to take your child to an upcoming funeral, we have put together this guide – Should Children Go To Funerals – to help with your decision.
Are children allowed to go to a funeral?
Firstly, there is no “rule” when it comes to children attending a funeral. Some grieving family members prefer children not to attend as they worry they’ll be a distraction from the ceremony, but in most cases kids are allowed to attend. If you’ve been invited to a funeral and are unsure whether children are welcome, it’s worth checking with the bereaved family, funeral director, or person organising the service.
What age do children go to funerals?
Again, there is no “right” age. Child psychologists suggest that most children have an understanding of death by the time they are 8-10 years old, but even those younger will have an awareness of death in some form.
- Under 2 – they have no understanding of the concept of death, but will notice the absence of a significant person in their life i.e. a parent or primary caregiver.
- 2-5 years – they have an awareness of things being ‘dead’ and ‘alive’, but they do not understand the permanence of death.
- Primary school – they begin to understand the finality of death, and that the person who has died will not come back.
- Teenagers – they have an adult understanding of the concept of death but may also have their own beliefs and views on the subject.
Should I take my children to a funeral?
Many people worry that their children are too young to go to a funeral and won’t understand what is happening. In some cases this may be true, but every child is different so you need to decide whether you think your child is ready. Ask yourself:
- Is my child anxious, or easily distracted?
- Is it going to be an open or closed casket?
- How long will the ceremony be?
- Will the funeral be too distressing?
- Will they understand what’s going on?
- Do they want to go?
The last point is often forgotten, but is arguably the most important. Giving children the option helps them feel part of the decision making process. To help them decide, explain what to expect at the funeral using age-appropriate language and be prepared to answer their questions.
What if I don’t want my children at the funeral?
Some parents worry they will feel too overwhelmed at the ceremony and would prefer not to have their children there – this is completely understandable. To stop your child feeling left out, you should consider an alternative way for them to say goodbye, this could be:
- Visiting the crematorium or cemetery at a later date
- Lighting a candle
- Making a memory book together
- Writing a poem
- Drawing a picture
Should children attend a grandparent’s funeral?
If your child was close to their grandparents then a funeral can be a nice way for them to say goodbye and get a sense of closure – especially if the child watched them battle with illness for a long time.
How to explain what happens at a funeral to children?
Explaining what happens at a funeral is an important part of helping a child decide if they would like to attend. Children take in as much information as they can cope with, so keep explanations simple and short, and be ready to answer any questions they might have.
Child Bereavement UK have an informative piece about explaining funerals, burial and cremation to children.
How to make funerals easy for young children
You know your child better than anyone, including how they deal with different situations. Here are a few suggestions to help prepare your child for a funeral:
- Explain to them what to expect – describe what will happen before, during and after the service in a child-friendly way. This will help reassure them ahead of the service.
- Get them involved, where possible – often children want to contribute something to the funeral of someone close to them, you could get them write a poem, draw a picture, read a prayer or help choose the funeral music.
- Ask a close friend to help out – if the funeral is for a close family member you will likely be grieving or heavily involved in the ceremony. You may want to ask someone who knows the child well, perhaps a family friend, to help support the child in case they feel overwhelmed or fidgety.
- Bring a book, favourite toy or quiet game – if they are getting restless it can be good to bring something to distract them or keep them occupied.
Should children be shielded from death and funerals?
Death is a natural part of life and it’s important that children understand this. Funerals are a meaningful ritual and involving a child, even from a young age, can help familiarise them with death. This may feel intimidating as a parent, but it can help children become more compassionate – something which is important as they get older.
Are children allowed time off school for a funeral?
Schools are usually very understanding when it comes to funerals. They can also help support your child to try and make the grieving process easier at school.
What should children wear to a funeral?
Standard funeral etiquette is black or dark clothing, and this usually applies to children as well. For more information, please refer to our guide: What to wear to a funeral.
Wills and probate
When someone dies, there are certain tasks that need to be taken care of.
10 things to cancel when someone dies
We’ve created a guide to help you think about things to cancel when someone dies.
Further Reading: Arranging a funeral
Read about how funerals are arranged and what services you can expect to get.