Many people instantly think that it is wrong for a child to attend a funeral as it may be too traumatic for them at such as tender age. However this is not always the case.
Shielding your child from the pain and suffering surrounding a death seems logical. It’s a hard process for you as an adult, so how could a child possibly get through it? While a rational thought, the truth is that preventing a child from attending the funeral service or ritual could actually do more harm than good.
Excluding children from the funeral denies them the opportunity to mourn, be with others who are hurting, and to grieve. Children who are not allowed to attend the funeral may feel resentful if they don’t get to participate or say goodbye. It could make death seem abnormal and not a natural part of life.
Experts agree that children should be given the choice to attend the funeral and participate, and it is important that their decision is respected.
How to Help Children Decide
To help children decide whether or not to attend a funeral they will need information about what is going to happen. Like you, their world may be turned upside down after a death in the family.
Describing the funeral process step-by-step can help dispel any myths or anxieties children may have. For some children, basic information is enough for them to make an informed decision. If your child has any other questions after giving them the basics, answer them honestly and respect their choice once they have made their mind up.
How to Prepare Children Who Choose to Attend
Explain Grief: Children should know that they are not expected to feel a certain way. Prepare them for being around people that may be emotional or even crying, and explain that while that is acceptable, there is no right or wrong way to express grief.
Clarify: Clarify with your children that a person who has died cannot breathe, talk, think nor feel pain. Death is permanent and it can be confusing to a child if he or she is made to believe otherwise.
Involve: Children who choose to attend funerals can be involved in the funeral planning as well as in the service. Helping choose pictures for a memorial tribute video or photos for a picture board are activities that allow everyone involved help remember the dead.
After the Funeral
It is important for you feel confident in your choice to include younger family members in the funeral rituals. After the funeral, follow-up with your child to see if they have any questions or anything they want to talk about. Including your children allows you to gather with them, honour the dead and maybe most importantly, learn how to grieve and self-heal.