Children And The Death Of A Pet

The death of a pet can be devastating for children. How to help them through it and use it as an opportunity to teach them about death.

The loss of a pet is often your child's first experience with death. You can take the death of a pet as a useful opportunity to teach your child about death and dying as you help them cope through the loss and learn about the cycle of life that we all must go through. Death can often be a scary thing for children if they are not taught about it, often just knowing the facts can ease their minds and if you are a religious family, learning what your faith believes about dying can give them strength and peace. Pet's normally live short lives and if you have them, it is likely that you will have to go through this eventually. The loss of a pet is like loosing a family member as your pet really is a part of the family and loved as such.

When your pet dies or needs to be euthanized, your child is going to want to know where the pet has gone. It is best to tell the truth in these matters if you want your child to be well prepared for life. Saying things like, the puppy went to live on a farm, or kitty ran away, will not only confuse your child more, but he may even resent you later in life for lying to him. Your child will always have hope of seeing his pet again if you do not explain that it has died. Let your child ask as many questions as he needs to and give honest answers that your child can understand.

Hold a memorial service for your pet. Even if your pet has been cremated at a veterinary hospital or other service, you can hold a memorial service for him at home or at a favorite place such as a park, etc. where the pet liked to play. Make it as formal as possible complete with a few picked flowers, some prayers or words spoken and moments of silence. This is good preparation for funerals later on and your child will be able to see how we pay respect to those who have passed on. A memorial service will also give a certain finality to things and often times, even if adults do not organize a service, children will do it on their own, which shows the importance of such a ritual for saying goodbye.



Get another pet. Getting another pet is always a good way to help ease the pain of losing a pet. Explain that you are not replacing the old pet, but want to give the children another pet to be their friend and keep them company. Children will feel some comfort at having another direction to place their affections and will learn to love the new pet as much as the old.

Death is never a pleasant experience, but if we take the small opportunities to prepare our children, they will be less devastated and confused the next time it needs to be faced.

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