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At what age should children not go to a funeral?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
I recently had to attend a funeral and I chose to not involve dd (3) in any of the activities around that (visitations, mass, wake, etc). I was surprised that there were other kids there the whole time, through all the visitations and everything, including kids aged 6 months, almost 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8. I felt like it would have been confusing and inappropriate to include dd in the process, especially since she didn't even know the deceased. But it made me a little uncomfortable that there were other young kids there, which obviously would be a different reaction than some.

It seemed like everyone I talked to about this seemed to have a vague window of ages that they would not take a kid to a funeral. There seems to be a period when a child is too young to understand where they even are and then an age when a child is old enough to process and discuss what is happening. Of course this varies for each family and for each situation, but I'm curious what other people think. Do you think there is a time period for young children that may be inappropriate to go to a funeral? If so, approximately when does it start and stop in your mind?
post #2 of 43
I think it depends on the relationship of the child to the deceased first off, that effects many things. Personally I think a very young child (maybe under 1.5 years old) who doesn't understand is acceptable to bring if it makes the parents more comfortable then finding a sitter and the child is well behaved.

Then I think you get in a gray area between there and about 5 years old where they might not grasp the way to behave and what is going on. That is the range I would only bring a small child if it is a VERY close relative.

After 5 I think you can begin the conversation about death and some times I think it's best to give the child the choice to go or not. I was given the choice when I was about 8 and chose not to go, at 12 I chose to go.

I think it is a tough topic with no hard and fast rules. In fact religion, family and closeness to the deceased makes many of the rules in my opinion. Also it depends on your child, at least in my opinion.
post #3 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecoteat View Post
especially since she didn't even know the deceased.
This is a perfectly reasonable reason not to involve your child, but age doesn't matter.

As a young child, my maternal grandfather died, and my sisters and I were excluded from the funeral and such. We also had not been allowed to visit him during his hospital stay, where he passed away. He simply disappeared from our lives one day. I could not understand why I couldn't see my grandpa anymore. I was angry that he was being kept from me.

A short while later my paternal grandmother died. Through out her progressive illness, we visited her frequently in the hospital. Then we attended all the funeral proceedings. Nothing was hidden away. Though we were very sad, and it didn't all sink in at once, it never seemed as scary, or like people were keeping me from grandma, and I knew that grandma wanted to be with me till she no longer could.

When someone the child knows dies, you can either hide it from the child, or involve them. If you don't involve the child the sudden disappearance is confusing and upsetting for the child. Though parts of the funeral, wake, burial, and such may be somewhat confusing or upsetting for the child, it isn't as bad as people disappearing. These customs have been set up to help people who are grieving understand death, children get comfort from them just as grownups do.
post #4 of 43
I agree with the pp -- it depends on the relationship to the deceased, or more importantly the family of the deceased. I brought my ds (then about 24 months) to my aunt's mother's funeral. Despite the awkward title of the relationship, she was close to our family and loved small children. My aunt was thrilled to see him. I was glad I brought him, especially to the wake. He was fine during the funeral (but then he's a relatively 'easy' kid). There were a ton of children at that funeral - mostly great-grandchildren and great-great-nieces/nephews

It's also somewhat cultural, I think. In my family, the wake and the funeral are times to mourn, reconnect with distant family, share stories about the deceased and loved ones, to laugh, to cry, to share drinks and meals. Kids fit into this quite nicely, even if they didn't know the deceased well. Other families expect more solemnity and no disturbances. If that's the case, I'd be reluctant to bring a child under 2 if they didn't know the person.

However, if the child did know the person, especially if they knew them well, there is no minimum age. Funerals are an important part of the grieving process. We don't hold funerals for the deceased, we hold them for the living who remain. Because of that, it's important, IMO, for all those who were close to the deceased to be there, even if they are very young.
post #5 of 43
Well, if it's for a stranger, I wouldn't take the child.

My three kids were involved in the end stage of my grandmother's life, her funeral, and her burial. They were 5, 3, and 1 at the time. The younger two I don't think were aware of what was really happening, it was just an "event", at the end of which they got cookies and had cousins to play with. The 5 yo was paying attention to everything and had questions ("How did they fit G-G into that jar?" ) but he wasn't disturbed by it and I am glad he participated.
post #6 of 43
If my child didn't know the person and they were not family, I would not take them no matter what age unless they asked (like teenagerish).

Family member - doesn't matter what age. I feel they have a right to be there. Then again I believe children should understand life and death from an early age. I don't sugar coat things for my 3 year old, when she asks where one of our animals is, I tell her they died and explain. We have attended two funerals, the last one being at least a year ago. For the most part we hung out at the back of the room/outskirts of the group, but at that point I think DD1 was around 2 so she was oblivious so I didn't push anything on her. When they are ready to learn IMO they will ask.
post #7 of 43
I agree with eepster. I think there is no age children should "not be permitted" to attend funerals. In my family funerals and weddings are like reunions and an opportunity to meet family you havent seen in a while. Children are always welcome.
post #8 of 43
Any age works for us . . . Rylie was about a year old for her first wake, then 18 months for her first funeral/wake/all day affair, and Ronin was about 2 for his first wake and 3 for his first funeral/wake/cremation. Both kids have very laid back feelings about death at the moment . . . Rylie went through a phase around 4 when she didn't like hearing that all people eventually die, but now? She is SO much more comfortable with death than I was at her age, and I am so glad.

The only way I would leave a child out of a funeral/wake situation would be if they specifically asked not to attend.
post #9 of 43
In my in-law family culture, children are welcome at any age.

Sometimes there is a room set up for them during the visitation hours with a few activities and family to care for them, just because it's long.

For the actual funeral service, everyone is welcome and it's just the same as any event - if a child is misbehaving, take them out for a few minutes. We don't have state funerals where kids aren't welcome. One of our family members was a priest and his funeral was very elaborate, and the order made a point of welcoming kids.

For someone who wasn't family and who my child didn't know well no, I wouldn't take him.
post #10 of 43
I guess it all depends on what you as the parent are comfortable with and what you think that you're kids are o.k with. Only you have an idea of how they might react.
I had to think of those things two years ago when my mother's husband of only a year had suddenly passed. While he was only in the family for a year my children knew him as Grandpa Buddy. He was someone that they liked and enjoyed spending time with. My kids were 7, 5, and 3 at the time. They did come with the family for the wake and the funeral. My only requirement was that they did not see the coffin open. If it was open my children were out of the room. I didn't think that they were at an age to be able to handle that they are all very sensitive. I was also going off of my own experience of my great grandma passing when I was only 6. It is something that I truly wish my mother would have not let me go through the way I did.
My kids knew that it was a funeral and that Grandpa Buddy had died. They missed him and still occasionally mention him.
post #11 of 43
To this day I resent my parents for making us sit in the car at my grandfather's burial. He and I were very close. It took me years to actually be able to visit his gravesite.

Our son has been to funerals and I would not restrict his attendance at any of them. My nephew, a year and change older, opted out of my grandmother's funeral because he couldn't handle being there. Ds wanted to be there. Either decision was fine.

I think it is a good opportunity to discuss death and dying with children and let them make up their own minds with guidance.
post #12 of 43
Any age. Since 2003 I have experienced an absurd amount of death in my life (3 friends, 2 grandparents, 1 brother-in-law) and my kids (now 6 and 2) were there for all of it. These were all people that were involved in our lives and I cared deeply for them, I couldn't imagine not taking them. The only exception was for my grandmother, I knew Zoe would be a little too rambunctious for the church so we skipped that part and took a walk to the playground my grandmother used to take me to when I was small. I think going there was better than attending the church service anyway, it held more meaning for me, YK? But we continued on to the burial afterwards. DD2 is too little to have a clue but my 6 y/o is pretty comfortable with it.

I think if you deal with death matter-of-factly but with age appropriate explanations then a child can handle a funeral just fine (barring the restless toddler or inconsolable baby). It's an inevitable part of life, like birth and falling in love.
post #13 of 43
there are a bunch of things involved.

culture. personality of child. is it a family or adult thing.

at 3 my dd went for a funeral at 3. stranger. a neighbour next door. in asia. she wanted to go see our neighbour when she was brought home. my dd sat with her surrounded by other members and was profoundly moved. mama she looks so peaceful. as if she is asleep.

at 4 and 5 she was actively involved in the process of dying with both her gparents. she helped along with me to take care of them. she was sitting with them as they passed. she was involved with everything. right from washing the body to taking part in the service. to me that year of being allowed to be there with her gparents as they slowly deteorated was the greatest gift her gparents could give her. she was v. close to her gparents and it would have been mean to not be there for every part of their death and dying.
post #14 of 43
My oldest went to a few funerals with her dad and me, because of close family/friend deaths that occurred in the first four years of her life -- these were funerals that dh and I felt a need to attend, and dd was not comfortable being left with other people. So of course her place was with us.

It didn't seem at all upsetting to her -- the hard part was being quiet, so of course we sat at the back. At my dad's burial, a friend walked around with dd when she got restless.

Our youngest hasn't been to any funerals, because it just hasn't come up yet.
post #15 of 43
My kids, age 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 2 1/2, have been to at least five funerals, and DD1 has been to more (my extended family.) Only once have I left them behind (DH's uncle.)

I wouldn't go by age. I think age has very little to do with it.

I would go by who the deceased is, the family or friends likely to be present, how upset I was likely to be by the death of the deceased, and the individual personality of the child.

I wouldn't take my child to the funeral of somebody I know very little, like a coworker's family member or somebody like that. My child would know nobody there but me.

I wouldn't take my child to a funeral if I felt I was likely to be very distraught and upset during the funeral. I think that would be frightening to a child. If I did take the child, it would be because I thought there would be plenty of people who my child knows who could keep the child if I needed some time.

I would take my child to the funeral of anybody in my family, or to any funeral where family members of mine were likely to be present. Funerals in my family are often jolly occasions, with tons of kids, and are an opportunity for the family to reconnect joyfully to remember the deceased. That's our family culture. We do our most intense mourning in private, before and after the public occasion. Plus, our family is so tight-knit and close, and being part of that is something I want my kids to have, in good times and bad. Also, there are always so many people to spend time with my kids at funerals that I usually hardly even see my kids the whole day.

I wouldn't take my kiddos to most funerals in DH's family, though. They are very solemn and serious at funerals. His family has a much greater concern for decorum, and my kids would almost certainly break their standards of what's proper at a funeral. Nobody smiles or laughs at funerals in his family, ever. It's just not done.


So I guess, it depends.
post #16 of 43
Depends on the relationship for the most part...but personally I feel that a child from age 2 on up shouldn't be shielded from the death of a loved one. I think it's important for a child to grieve...and I think it actually helps them to process those sad feeling later in life when other people in their lives pass. One of my best friends killed himself when he was only 11 years old. I was 9 and my mom was one of the only mom's who let me go to the funeral and told me the truth about what happened. I am so glad she didn't under estimate me and my ability AND need to grieve for my friend.
post #17 of 43
My kids are 6 and 3. I can only think of one funeral in their entire lives that I have not taken them to. That one was in the same town we live in and during a week day so the kids were already at daycare as I normally would have been working.

No one I know expects anyone to find childcare while they leave town or childcare in a strange town. And since most funerals I've attended have been out of town my kids always attend.

They have never been the only children there. Of course as others mentioned the culture of most of those funerals was very welcoming to children. Probably the most formal funeral we have ever been to was my aunt who was a Nun. The whole order knew how much she doted on my son and many of them had enjoyed numerous afternoons enjoying the baby themselves while she was alive. They handed my one year old a squirt bottle of holy water and him bless everything and everyone in sight. Lucky we haven't been to any other funerals who have catered to my child to quite that degree.

As PP posters said if they get disruptive we simply remove them for a bit. At any funeral where the person was close enough to me that I felt I couldn't step out with my child I was usually close enough to other people at the funeral that someone else would happily step out with my child if need be. I myself have stepped out of the room with others kids in the same situation. When my uncle died I had my cousins child (age 1 1/2) almost all weekend as she was too upset to feel she could attend to his needs. But he still attended everything, just in my care instead of his moms.
post #18 of 43
My children attend funerals when we are very close to the deceased otherwise they do not attend.

If my children couldn't behave during the service I also wouldn't bring them.

My children were able to sit quietly at a very young age, and I took my youngest then 1.5 years old to my MIL funeral and she was very quiet the entire time. 3 years later they attended their great grandma's funeral.

Seeing me somewhat fall apart and be sad I think is important. There really isn't anything more upsetting emotionally than becoming an adult and then having to learn how to deal with death.

Just my two pennies.
post #19 of 43
My son went to a funeral at about 6 months and another at just over a year. I stayed in a wrap both times, and there were also people who would have gladly walked him or played with him if I had needed or wanted them to help out.

Death and funerals are an important part of life. I don't want my son to grow up afraid of them. I want him to see how people gather to celebrate the lives of people they have loved and to express their feelings at their passings.

I was very glad when the DIL of one of lady whose funeral we attended said she was always glad to see babies at funerals because they remind you of the complete and joyful cycle of life.

At 2, my son is much more active and might not be able to attend a funeral with any amount of decorum, so I would be very careful about where and when we went if we were to attend a funeral. I certainly think it is appropriate to consider how a child will be able to behave and plan accordingly.

My brother and I (then about 2 and 6 years old) attended the visitations, funerals, and burials of our great grandmother and our grandfather. I remember being the only children in attendance even though my grandfather had 11 living grandchildren at the time. All the aunts and uncles didn't think it was appropriate for us to be there, but I appreciated being with my family. I think it would have been very scary and upsetting to be away from them. As it is, I remember seeing them in their caskets and looking at the flowers. I remember family and friends crying and explaining to me that they would miss them very much and laughing as they recalled stories from their lives. I remember being with my parents and extended family and looking at all the flowers and talking about who had sent them. I remember the bugler playing Taps and the riflemen firing a salute to my grandfather, who retired from the Army and picking up the spent shells in the rain. I still have one in my jewelry box. I remember looking through photographs as the adults sorted them to take home and sharing meals that countless church ladies prepared and brought for after the funerals. I appreciate that my parents respected me as a person to learn about life as it came along and to include me in all of the families' events.

Melinda
post #20 of 43
My kids have attended all funerals in their lifetimes that I have attended- they've included- dh's grandmother (dd was around 8 or 9 months), my aunt (dd was around 2.5?), my grandmother (dd was 4ish, ds was an infant)

-Angela
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