Should children attend funerals? George and Charlotte play key role in Queen's service
Prince George and Princess Charlotte have joined their parents to honour their great-grandmother, the Queen at her funeral.
George, nine, and Charlotte, seven, accompanied Kate, William, Meghan and Harry and other Royal Family members to walk behind their great-grandmother's coffin in Westminster Abbey.
In one of the biggest moments of their young lives, they also then joined other members of the Royal Family to follow the late monarch's coffin out of the service.
The siblings walked behind their parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and in front of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, reflecting their place in the line of succession. Four-year-old Prince Louis didn't join the service due to being considered too young.
Later today, both children will also be in the congregation at Her Majesty's committal service at St George's Chapel in Windsor.
The Prince and Princess of Wales are said to have thought 'very carefully' about whether to include their children in the official proceedings.
It was noted that they took them to the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service at the Abbey in March, where they coped well in the spotlight and with the sombre nature of the occasion.
The decision as to whether or not the children join the procession at Windsor, following the committal service, will be made after this morning's proceedings.
Should children attend a funeral?
Deciding whether or not children should be present at the funeral of a loved one is a tricky dilemma many parents will face following the death of a relative.
The presence of children at funerals might have some parents thinking about what is appropriate and beneficial for their own family, if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Psychologist and wellbeing specialist, Lee Chambers, says there is no hard and fast rule about bringing children to funerals.
"When it comes to making decisions about children attending funerals, the most significant consideration is that there is no one-size-fits-all rule or specific age to apply, but it should be a decision based on the children involved and their needs," he tells Yahoo UK.
Watch: Queen's children and grandchildren walk behind coffin at funeral
While some question whether children are mature enough to cope with the sombre nature of funeral proceedings, Chambers says for some young people it can help them with their own grief process.
"While children grieve in a different way to adults, having the opportunity to express their feelings, talk about their memories and experiences, and say goodbye can help children process their grief and come to terms with the loss of someone they love," he says.
"They can receive support from others going through similar feelings, and have their feelings normalised by seeing others grieve in different ways."
Chambers says some children may also feel that they have done something important and "been there", given funerals are usually a one-off ritual.
Dipti Tait, a psychotherapist, grief therapist and author of Planet Grief agrees that there is no wrong or right thing to do when considering whether to allow children to attend a funeral.
"It really does depend on the child and the relationship they had with the person who died," she adds.
But there are some considerations to think about when making the decision, including the age of the child, their relationship with the person who died and how it might impact your own ability to grieve at the funeral.
"In the case of very young children, under 10 years old – if they have lost a close family member, it may be a good idea to not have them there as it could be overwhelming for both the child and the people who want to show their grief openly," she explains.
"If the child is older – above 10 years old – it is important to give the child the choice to attend the funeral with the option of leaving if it gets too much for them to handle," she adds.
"It is important children feel as if they have been considered in death and not pushed to one side – this way they feel safe and loved."
How can you tell if a child is ready to attend a funeral?
Chambers says it is important to consider how you can prepare your child and support them in making an informed decision about whether to attend.
"Helping them to make a choice can be empowering in a time of uncertainty and sadness," he explains.
"Informing them of what it will be like, the emotions they might see, and where and who will be there, can give them a feeling of security."
When it comes to readiness, Chambers says it is also worth considering how your child handles social situations, how they sit and follow social cues.
"Children of different ages have different needs, and if your child is old enough to express a desire to attend, it is likely they will benefit from the experience, as the most important thing isn’t that they attend the funeral itself, but they were given a choice," he adds.
"For younger children, it’s very much a decision based on your feelings on their readiness, and the most important thing is to be compassionate to yourself as you will also be grieving. If you decide they shouldn't attend, do ensure that you still find a way for them to pay their respects."
How to prepare a child to attend a funeral
If a child has made the decision to attend the funeral of a loved one, there are a number of preparations parents can make to ensure they feel ready for the experience.
"It is important to share where it will be taking place, the people they are likely to see there, and how the service will play out," Chambers says.
"Context around funerals and some of the symbolic aspects can also be beneficial, and reassuring a child that there is likely to be lots of emotion on show from adults, including sadness, tears and sorrow is essential," he adds.
Chambers also suggests trying to find a balance between filling them in on what might happen without going into unnecessary detail.
"It's about giving them enough to feel prepared but not so much they become overwhelmed," he explains.
What can you do instead if children don't attend?
Tait says it is essential children, however old they are, are involved in marking their loss. You need to allow them the time, space and consideration to be able to express their emotions and grieve in their own way.
"If children don't attend the funeral of a loved one, it is very important that the child is given the opportunity to express their grief and sadness in alternative ways that are personally tailored for each child," she explains.
"Making memory boxes, drawing pictures and sharing stories can help, as well as visiting the memorial site at a later date when it’s quieter with the child so there is closure for them."