Should children go to funerals?

child attending a funeral - she is stood between two adults and is wearing black and holding a teddy bear

There’s no single rule about whether children can attend funerals. Usually, it’s up to you as a parent whether you’d like your child to go.

Here are some things to think about to help you decide.

Should I take my child to a funeral?

There are lots of things to think about when you’re deciding if your child should go to a funeral. This includes thinking about different people’s feelings and needs – including your own and your child’s.

Are children allowed to attend the funeral?

It’s usually a good idea to ask the person organising the funeral if children can attend. Sometimes people will ask that children don’t go to a funeral – particularly if it’s a very formal ceremony. Or if they’re worried that children will find it too upsetting.

Does your child want to go to the funeral?

Are you able to give your child a choice about if they go to the funeral? To help them decide, explain what they’re likely to see at the funeral and be ready to answer their questions. Having the choice could be an important part of the grieving process for them.

For some children, especially older ones, going to the funeral of a loved one can help them to grieve. Not being allowed to go could mean they feel left out of an important event.

Will you feel comfortable if your child is at the funeral?

Think about your needs. You may find it difficult to take part in a funeral with your child there. Remember, it’s okay for your child to see you upset. But it’s okay if you need space to grieve too.

Is my child too young to go to a funeral?

There’s no minimum age for a child to attend a funeral. It’s up to you whether you think they’re old enough to understand the service and take part. You might also want to think about how formal the funeral will be – will other mourners be okay if your child isn’t able to sit quietly throughout the service? You can always check with the person organising the funeral before you decide what to do.

Can I take my child to a religious funeral?

Most faiths allow children to go to funerals. For example, Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism all say that children of any age can attend a funeral service.

It’s a good idea to make children aware of any rules they’ll need to follow at a faith funeral. For example, receiving a blessing or taking part in prayers.

If you decide to take your child to the funeral

Here are some things to think about if you decide to take your child to the funeral.

Explain what will happen and what they need to do

If this is the first time your child has been to a funeral, it’s a good idea to let them know what to expect. Here are some things you could talk about:

Are children allowed time off school to go to a funeral?

In England, it’s up to the child’s head teacher whether they’re allowed to have an extra day off. This is known as an authorised absence. Each school has its own policy about absences which you should be able to get from their website or the school office. You’ll usually need to fill in a form to ask for the day off.

Sometimes an absence can be authorised after the funeral. For example, an Islamic funeral happens very quickly and there may not be time to ask for a day off before it takes place.

If the school doesn’t agree to your child having a day off for the funeral, you can appeal against their decision. If you decide to take your child to the funeral anyway, it’s usually counted as an unauthorised absence.

If your child doesn’t go to the funeral

If your child doesn’t go to the funeral, there are still lots of ways you can help them to celebrate a loved one’s life. Here are some things you could do together to help your child with the grieving process:

Helping your child with their grief

Not sure what to say or how to help your child with their grief? It’s perfectly normal not to know what to say or do – especially if you’re grieving too. There are several UK charities that support children who are grieving. Grief Encounter provides 1-to-1 support to children, as well as providing training and resources to parents, carers and teachers.

You can find more bereavement charities for children on this list.


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