Are My Kids Old Enough For A Funeral?

There is no set age where children are suddenly mature enough to understand and attend a funeral. However, there are several factors which come into play when making the decision to involve them or find a different option for their day.

The first consideration is the parental attitude. Have you been able to broach the subject of loss with your child in any way? Have they lost a pet? Were you able to explain this in terms suitable for their age, answer their questions, and leave them satisfied with your answers? The answer to a three-year-old’s questions will be very different from the answer given to an eight-year-old. Most children encounter end-of-life situations at an early age, and our initial response will determine how they handle it. They are watching you for cues.

Consider taking the time to explain the customs behind the funeral arrangements you will be attending together. Your reactions to the loss of a loved one will set the stage for the way your children deal with this sensitive issue the next time they encounter it.

Is this a funeral for someone very close to them? If so, you may want to gauge readiness based on their position in the grieving process. Just as adults need closure, so do children. Very small or unready children may do better with remembering their loved one as they were in life, and may not do well with having the final image of their loved one changed. Older children may be ready to observe the services, interact with family, and accept the transition.

If this funeral is for someone closer to you, but not your child, it may be an opportunity to observe and relate to the customs and interactions surrounding a funeral without the grief and mourning of a special loss. This option allows acceptance and understanding before the emotions are pulled into the day.

Talk to your child and see how the feel about attending the arrangements. Although they don’t always know what is best, it is a good bet that a strong emotion one way or the other should be respected. It may be better to let an older child stay home if they are strongly opposed to going. Whether they can openly relate their emotions or not, there is something giving them reason to feel as they do. Conversely, if an older child wants to attend a funeral amongst your objections, you might reconsider before saying no. They may feel a strong need for this closure and wish to say goodbye in their own way.

An open discussion about what will happen, who will attend, and how things may appear will allow them to be comfortable with asking questions. You will want to reassure them that their feelings are important, and that it is ok to be sad or mad. Calmly answer their queries, explain how you might be feeling, and what you expect to feel over the next few days and weeks. If you end the discussion with confidence that your child is ready, allow them to attend. Do not force them into the procession or any uncomfortable parts of the process, but allow them to observe and mingle. Be available for them.

Funerals are an important part of our societal customs and an integral part of our goodbye. Be responsive to your child’s needs and give them room to be a part of their own goodbye when they are ready.

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