How to Prepare a Child for Attending a Funeral

Posted: 26/01/2018

As we go through life, we come to understand the inevitability of death and the circle of life making a funeral something which is easier to digest as an adult. For children however, they will not have the same experiences and understanding as we do, meaning that a funeral can be completely alien to them and a major cause of stress due to juvenile ignorance.

If you have a child and there has been a death in the family or of a close friend, you may be wondering how to explain this this to them. Some people with children are so fearful of explaining the concept of death and what a funeral is to their child that they chose to simply exclude them from the rituals of grief and mourning when a person close to them has died. This certainly does not have to be the case. You many have questions about how to prepare your child for a funeral, and in this article, we intend to help to answer some of these questions.

Children tend to be a lot simpler than adults, so what they need most from you at a time like this is complete and utter honesty. It is best to give them accurate and factual information, rather than beating around the bush. Make sure they feel that they have the freedom to express their feelings as well as ask questions, no matter how simple or complex. You should aim to include a child in decisions and discussions around the deceased so that they grow to understand in a more natural way.

If you are planning a funeral for a loved one, check out the option of funeral insurance. This should give you peace of mind, so you can focus on making sure your children or the children of the deceased are prepared for a funeral.

How old should a child have to be to attend a funeral?

According to a survey done by British Social Attitudes, almost half of people (48% to be exact) think that it is inappropriate for a child to attend a funeral. Despite this, it is up to you if you think your child should attend a funeral.

No matter how old or young you are, you still feel love and still feel grief. Consider this when deciding whether or not to leave your child behind in the light of a funeral.

Whilst it is up to the parents, no child is “too young” to attend a funeral, but it is essential that they are well prepared. Shutting a child out in a time of mourning can backfire and make them feel alone and confused. Children must learn that even the people they love do die, but also that they will always have someone there to take care of them.

Explaining death to a child


Before attending a funeral, make sure your child has a clear understanding of the ins and outs to do with death. Death can be explained to our children the same way which we would explain any other milestone. Offer your child simple facts, do not be vague. Be honest and straightforward so that the realities of death do not take them by surprise later on. It is best to tackle the difficult topic as it happens.

It may be wise to ask your child what they already know about death so that you can correct or expand upon this knowledge.

Encourage children to express their feelings and fears about what is happening. Always make them feel as though their feelings are valid and welcomed in discussion. If your child does not know how to react, you could explain how someone might feel upon finding out that someone has died.

It is also best to use the terminology “dead” or “died” rather than “passed away”, “sleeping”, “with God” or “lost” as these can confuse a child. You can even explain in detail: “Grandad has died. This means that his heart has stopped beating and he no longer breathes in or out. Because he has died, he will no longer be able to hear, move or feel any pain. He is not sleeping, being dead is different because he will not wake up like he would if he was sleeping.”

Preparing your child for the funeral


Explain the children who will be at the funeral, what will happen during the service, where said service will take place and when and finally, why a funeral takes place.

If it is possible, you can take your children to visit the location of the funeral service before it takes places so that it is not so intimidating for them when they arrive on the day. Show them where to find the facilities like the bathroom or the play area and remind them that it is up to them if they stay for the whole service or not. Explain they if they want to go outside, to tell an adult and ask to be escorted out to play or go for a walk.

You must explain the purpose of a funeral. Explain that is the coming together of families when someone they love has died to do things like:

  • Say thank you, I love you and goodbye to the person who has passed away
  • Celebrate and remember the life of the person
  • Receive and give comfort to those around them who are also affected by the death
  • Share stories, tears and laughter with others who knew the deceased

Prepare your children to witness people displaying a range of emotions throughout the day, including tears of pain as well as laughter. Let them know that all feelings like these are okay and can be displayed at a funeral.

Explaining cremation

Since burial is more traditional, your child may have been exposed to the concept on television, for example. However, the fundamentals behind cremation can seem rather strange and morbid. Explain that cremation is a painless and good process, the deceased of course will not feel any pain since they are dead – this part is vital to a child who might not understand the simplicity of death.

Tell your child that following the cremation that the remains left may be placed into an urn to be buried or kept, or that the remains will be scattered in a place which was loved by the person who had died.