Children and Memorial Services
Whether or not children should attend memorial services will depend upon the children and the specific circumstances, but in general attending memorial services can be a very good thing for children.
Children who do not want to attend should not be forced to do so, but explaining about the service and what will happen there can help to persuade children to go. Sometimes children will not want to go to a funeral or service because they are afraid. Finding out why children do not want to attend, then, can help allay their fears and make the process more comfortable. On the other hand, many children are happy to go to a funeral or service and want to be included in some way.
There are many options for including children in memorial services, each of which can be tailored to suit a specific child.
Explaining Memorial Services To ChildrenMemorial services can differ according to religions and family preferences, so it should be no surprise that most children will be unfamiliar with these events. If the memorial service is a funeral, explain this to the child and help him or her understand that the deceased will be there in a casket and that after the service the deceased will be buried or cremated – and what this all means.
If the memorial service is a formal liturgy discuss what will happen, and in what order, with the children. If the memorial service will be more informal, explain to children that it is a time for everyone to gather and honour the memory of the deceased. Children often want concrete details, so be prepared to explain exactly what will happen, who will attend, who will be involved and if there is anything in particular that might be expected of him or her.
Discussing Children’s RefusalsFollowing the death of a loved one, children may think or act in ways that are not typical for them. Some adults may assume that these changes are responsible if a child refuses to attend a memorial service. No matter what the reason, adults who encounter a child who refuses to attend a memorial service should discuss this refusal with the child. Very often children refuse to attend something out of fear, or because the memory of the deceased will make them sad. It may also be that the child doesn’t understand or isn’t comfortable with death, and his or her refusal to attend stems from this discomfort. By finding out what a child does not want to attend a memorial service, adults can help him or her find solutions to these problems and hopefully not miss this chance to remember their loved one.
Including Children In Memorial ServicesSome children are more than happy to attend memorial services and even be included in the proceedings. Children might find pleasure in singing, reciting a poem, telling a story, participating in a liturgy such as by doing a reading, offering flowers or bringing religious articles up as required. Other children may enjoy doing less obvious tasks such as handing out books or programmes, or showing people to their seats.
Children should never be forced to attend memorial services for loved ones. However, adults should take care to explain the memorial service, discuss why the child might not want to attend and even make provisions for including children in memorial services if this is appropriate.