Should My Child Attend the Funeral?
Kids Path counselors are often asked, “Is it a good idea for my child to attend our loved one’s funeral or memorial service?” Our response to this question varies because each situation and child is unique; however, a few specific factors are helpful to consider.
Consider Your Child’s Age and Maturity Level
Toddlers, preschoolers and other young children may find a memorial event to be confusing or distressing, especially if they don’t understand what happened to their loved one. They may be highly sensitive to the intense emotions present in the room. Alternatively, they may seem insensitive to the gravity of the occasion and behave in a way that is seen as inappropriate to onlookers. When making your decision, consider how attending the event will affect them as well as whether their behavior may be disruptive to others.
Give Your Child a Choice
When possible, give children choices about their involvement in the memorial event. Help your child understand what to expect, including details about what they are likely to see and hear. Explain that some people may be sad or crying at the event, and validate that either crying or not crying is okay. Let your child know that you will have special time together after the event, whether that means going out for ice cream or simply making time to talk about how they are feeling.
By providing detailed expectations of the event beforehand, you are empowering your child to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. Whatever they decide, be sure to communicate your support and understanding.
Talk about Saying Goodbye
Some older children or teens who attend the event may want to speak or read something special as part of the service, but for others, this may be uncomfortable. Younger children can be given limited options for participation. For example, some families let children attend the memorial gathering but not the viewing or graveside service.
If your child chooses not to attend, brainstorm together about other ways to participate. Some children draw pictures or write letters for an adult to bring to the memorial service or burial. Other children may find comfort in creating a separate ritual at home as a way of saying goodbye.
Make a Backup Plan
Due to the unpredictable and emotional nature of funerals and memorials, it is important to have a backup plan for attending the event. For younger children, it’s ideal to have an adult assigned to that child who can step outside with them if needed. With older children or teens, talk with them about their options if they need to leave early or take a break.
Kids Path Can Help You Support Your Grieving Child
Our licensed Kids Path counselors are available Monday through Friday to consult with parents or caregivers about the best ways to support a child coping with death or severe illness.
Call 336.544.5437 to speak with a Kids Path counselor.