Deciding whether or not a child should attend a funeral can be a very hard and sometimes even distressing choice. Adults often waver between wanting to allow a child to say goodbye, but not knowing if a child is emotionally ready for the event itself. Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to this question. Whether or not a child should attend a funeral will depend on many factors, each unique to the child, parents, family, religion, culture and funeral service.
To help you determine if a child should attend a funeral we have created the following questionnaire. Answer yes or no to each question and then total your answers. Match the total number of yes answers to the explanations at the end to help determine if a child should attend a funeral.
Should A Child Attend A Funeral?
1. Is the child school age?
2. Is the child able to sit still and be quiet for lengthy periods of time?
3. Is the child accustomed to religious ceremonies?
4. Have you ever spoken to the child about death?
5. Will the child be overly upset by seeing adults grieving?
6. Is there someone who can be with the child throughout the event?
7. Is it common in your culture or religion for children to attend funerals?
8. Are you prepared to answer questions about death, including your own or the child s?
9. Are you prepared to explain what happens at a funeral so the child will understand?
10. Will the child be able to process seeing the deceased s remains in an open casket?
11. Are you prepared to answer questions about the deceased s remains?
12. Were the child and the deceased close?
Total up your answers and read the summaries below. Hopefully, this will help you to judge whether or not the child should attend.
Yes to 1 – 4 questions
If you answered yes to between one and four questions then the child is most likely not ready to attend a funeral. It may be that the child s development or personality is not suited to a formal funeral, memorial, burial or cremation at this point or it may be that you are unable to prepare the child for the funeral before it occurs. Whatever the reason, consider planning instead for the child to have a nice day at home with a babysitter and to tackle the question of death and the deceased on a quiet day alone in the near future. Reading a book about death can be a good way to get the conversation started, and then you could plan together a fitting way to honour the deceased. Whatever you decide, just make sure to answer all of the child s questions about death and help him or her find a nice way to say goodbye.
Yes to 4 – 8 questions
If you answered yes to between four and eight questions then the child may be ready to attend a funeral. If the logistics of the funeral are giving you pause (where will the child sit, who will be with the child, etc) then ask other parents or a member of the clergy for recommendations on what has worked best for children in the past. If you are uncertain about how best to prepare the child for the funeral then schedule a time to have a heartfelt chat and allow the child to ask whatever questions (s)he can think up. But if you are worried about the child s responses to the deceased s remains, the burial or to adult grief and you don t feel that you can adequately address these concerns before the event then it may be best to consider leaving the child at home during the funeral, burial or cremation and finding another way for the two of you to celebrate the deceased at another time.
Yes to 9 or more questions
If you answered yes to nine or more questions then the child is most likely ready to attend a funeral. If you haven t already, sit down with the child to make sure that you have a chance to answer all of his or her questions prior to the event. Also ensure that you have an adult ready to be with the child at all times during the ceremonies so that if another question comes up or it turns out that the child is not ready for the funeral then the other adult can bring the child out without you having to leave as well. After the event be sure to speak with the child again so that you can answer any new questions and confirm that the child understood all that (s)he witnessed and experienced on the day.