Ask an expert

02 Aug 2011

Kids and Funerals
Do you think kids less than 10yrs old should attend funerals? I have an 8yrs old and a 4yrs old and wwe have a funeral in the family. My husband''s grandma passed away and I would like them to stay behind. I''m concerend they will be exposed to sadness, people crying and all, and that might make them sad. What do you think?
Thanks all for your response!
Answer 433 views

01 Jan 0001

Usually, I'd say yes. It depends in part on how well them kids knew the deceased - if they knew them well, even though the funeral may be distressing, it helps them to realize what is happening, when accompanied by a warmly sympathetic chat with their parents.
Sadness doesn't harm children, when it is appropriately aroused by sad events. Life is often sad, and we do them no service by pretending otherwise, and indeed run the risk of making it harder for them to handle the first really sad events that occur to them when we're not around to sanitize these.
Use the opportunity to explain things to them, and maybe begin by not assuming what they might know about death. They'll certainly know something - do you know how many deaths they will have witnessed on TV and in videogames already ? So ask them what they know and think about death. They will probably have noticed someting about what has happened to grandma from conversations overheard, and changes in the behaviour of their mom and dad.
Explanations should attend to what they want to know, rather than what you think they have to know ; and should be age appropriate - the 4 year-old will probably have simpler concerns than the 8 year-old.
You can explain what a funeral is, as an opportunity to fondly remember the person who is no longer with us, and maybe ask whether they would like to go or not. You woudn't, of course, force a reluctant child to attend, but generally they would be curious enough to want to go.
Talking about death, like talking about sex, shouldn't be a one-time only special offer, but an ongoing conversation, updated and revised as their experiences and concerns develop.
They may as well know that even adults get sad and weep, and that this is all right.
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
34% - 9250 votes
66% - 17787 votes