It’s often a cause of debate within families when somebody passes away – should the children be allowed to attend? It can be a very difficult decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. However, while some parents wish to shield their children from the grief of a funeral, others argue that if they are shut out of the public mourning and celebration, children will not be able to continue the natural grieving process.
Of course there are many factors involved in the decision making process, such as:
- How old are the children?
- Are they mature enough to pay their respects and cope with the funeral service?
- How close were they to the person who has passed away?
- Have they expressed their wishes to attend or not attend?
Bereavement is a personal matter and everyone deals with losing a loved one differently. The most important thing is that children understand what is happening, and what the purpose of a funeral is. If they really want to attend then make sure they know what to expect if it is their first funeral.
How young is too young?
Most people would agree that any child over the age of 12 can, and should, attend a funeral of a relative or family friend. But youngsters are aware of death at a much younger age, and also need to grieve if they lose someone close to them like a parent or auntie or uncle.
Every family situation is different so the final decision is up to you. For example, you might think a four year old shouldn’t witness a funeral or see adults emotional, especially as they may not even remember it. However, if their parent has passed away and their siblings attend the funeral, they may feel excluded from the family and this could have an impact for a long time.
If you decide a young child should stay at home, then you could always film the funeral service for them to watch when they are older.
Permission to grieve
It’s important to give children permission to grieve and show their emotions, and a funeral can act as this permission and make them realise the reality of the situation. Children don’t often see adults cry, but it lets them know it’s OK to show emotion and get upset. While it can be distressing to see close family members in pain, it can sometimes help them develop an emotional understanding.
If you’re still not sure whether it’s a good idea to allow your children to attend a funeral, ask for some advice from a bereavement charity. If you think the funeral will be inappropriate, you can invite children to get involved in other ways such as scattering the ashes.