Should children attend a funeral service?

By 8-10 years of age, most children have a pretty good understanding of death and often many younger kids will have sufficient understanding to be able to attend a funeral. Often the best solution is to offer your child the opportunity to go if they would like to. Frequently families decide not to take children under the age of three, as it can be an occasion where the child may feel unsettled. If you have no choice but to take your youngster, you may wish to have a person on standby to help with the young child if they become bored or upset. If later, you wish to have the small child involved, releasing a balloon with a message or planting a tree or shrub are wonderful ways to celebrate the life of the deceased person.

Taking a younger child to a cemetery for their first visit is a good opportunity to teach the reason for a cemetery. You might explain it as a place to remember and respect those who have died. Linking the deceased with a physical place may help your child understand that somebody they loved did not just abruptly vanish.

Centuries ago the circle of life occurred within the home. Babies were born in the mother’s bedroom, when someone passed away the body was cared for and washed at the home of the deceased or a family member. The whole family, including children, would visit the home and pay their respects, children also attended the funeral.

However times have changed, we are now more inclined to shield our children from the idea of death and it is very rare that a child would see a deceased person today compared to centuries ago, when it was a normal part of life.

Having a conversation with a child about a loss can help the child feel better, supported and safer. There may be worries or questions that they are concerned about, but find it hard to raise the subject. Talking about death might make them feel more comfortable to ask these questions, and they might feel more able to talk about their emotional and mental state.

Children old enough to know what is happening should generally be given the choice to attend and have their decision respected. If you are uncertain or have questions it is always advisable to ask the funeral director for their guidance or visit our coping with loss page for support organisations.