Six year old child?

Posted by Bill Palmer on Oct. 20, 2013, 9:44 a.m. 8 comments

Recently, the mother of a six year old boy asked me if she could bring him to a Death Cafe I am facilitating. Curious to know how my fellow Death Cafe practitioners would respond to this request.  Thanks!

Bill Palmer


University Instructor

In spite the topic is open and life ends some day for everyone, I think it's a very young age to be involved in this kind of thoughts. At this age a child better thinks of life, of the things he/she can do, has his/her own dreams.
I respect the parent's decision on it, but in my opinion it's not a good and necessary idea

Posted by Fidel Nunez

Hi Bill,

Thanks for asking! In the guide to holding your own Death Cafe it says "6.3 Generally Death Cafes are for adults. However occasionally people have asked to bring children / young adults, or just shown up with them. When they have been admitted the session has been fine for them and their parents, but sometimes other group members have felt inhibited. If you decide to admit young people please ensure you're adequately set up for this to be safe, and ask the consent of other group members."

Hope that helps.


Posted by Jon Underwood

Funeral Celebrant

Good advice, Jon. As Facilitator of the Denver Death Cafe I would not be comfortable having a child that young attend. Mainly because it would be distracting and uncomfortable for all the adult participants to speak freely and openly. ~ Anita

Posted by Anita Larson

Hey Bill,
I wonder why the mother wants to bring her child along. Might it be because she's very keen to be involved but has childcare problems? Like other contributors I would gently say no, but find out more. It may be that a separate group, perhaps during school hours could be useful. Best Wishes, Clare

Posted by Clare Slaney

I think it depends on the experience of the child with death. I lost my mother 4 mos. before turning 5 yrs. old and for a year I couldn't talk about it, because my Dad and new Step Mom could not deal with it. More than a year later, when spending the summer with my maternal grandmother,
I could finally talk about my Mom. For 10 years it was our secret and we would talk for hours.
So, it could be that maybe the Mom doesn't know how to deal with the child's questions? I would talk with Mom and find out more. If it is just that she has no baby-sitter, then no I would suggest she come alone at the next meeting. Otherwise, if it is a wise little 6 year old, and the other participants in the meeting don't object, they might learn from him and he'd be able to talk.
Find out if he experienced a loss.

Posted by Death Cafe Ocala

At the same time that this culture is violent, it denies death. I think the concept of the Death Cafes is a good one (I also highly recommend participating in Days of the Dead celebrations in San Francisco and Oakland; death does not have to be seen as a negative thing). We also deny that children are aware of what is going on around them or that they think about such things. Death is all over the news, the TV, and the Internet; and children often have family members (even young ones) or schoolmates who die from illness or violence. I think we should give credit and respect to our children by not trying to pretend that they don't know, can't think about, don't have feelings or thoughts about death, and let them speak their minds. We might learn a lot from them.

It might be that there should be DCs specifically to include children, and others just for adults (if the ADULTS are uncomfortable).

Posted by Roxana

Thanks to all who commented, all very thoughtful and welcome comments. I asked the mother in question not to attend with her child as it was my belief that this would inhibit other group members who might be more moved by their maternal/paternal instincts than by their desire to talk about death. And that a six year old's concept of death, no matter how precocious she or he might be, is likely to very far away from the concepts of those of adults. She was quite understanding and agreed with my reasoning. It does occur to me that a Death Cafe event especially designed for children (with their caretakers present) might be a very good idea.

Posted by Bill Palmer

Death Cafes for Children

My father died when I was 8 and there was never anyone that I could talk to about it. My mother gave me brief, cursory answers to my questions, but I didn't feel free to explore my feelings. Those feelings are still controlling me at age 70. If there were a Death Cafe where children could talk to each other about their feelings and experiences of death, it might have helped me.

Posted by Ann Frances Ellis

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