When a beloved family member dies, most parents use the opportunity to teach their children about the concept of life and death. But at what age can children understand and appreciate a funeral?

Many parents wonder if they should take their young child (between the ages of 3 and 7) to a family member’s funeral, as expert opinion seems to be split on the matter.

To understand whether or not a child should take part in the burial of a loved one, parents first need to realize that children of a certain age are unable to psychologically grasp the concept of death. Children below the age of four are often still developing their “theory of mind,” which is the understanding that those around them have thoughts, feelings, and other internal states that may vary wildly from their own.

Parents may become frustrated at their toddler’s indifference to the funeral proceedings, but unless the child is old enough to have developed the innate understanding that the adults around him or her may be feeling sad, hurt, or upset even if they are not, the child will not be able to grasp the gravity of the situation at hand.

While there is nothing wrong with involving a small child in the funeral processions (especially if he or she had a special connection to the loved one who has passed on), parents should take special note that they should be patient with the child should they not display appropriate emotions and reactions to the processions. Though most children fully develop their theory of mind by age six, children on the autism spectrum may have increased difficulty conceptualizing the concept of death and the funeral.

McCafferty Funeral Home, a respectful funeral home in Northeast Philadelphia, is available to help family members of all age participate in the final celebration of a loved one who has passed.

Anyone who needs assistance making burial or cremation arrangements is encouraged to contact McCafferty Funeral Home and our Philadelphia crematory at any time by calling 215-531-5014.