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Tips for Helping Children Deal with the Loss of a Pet


Pet's Memories & Love

Posted On: Sep 29, 2014

Pet's Memorial

As an adult, you learn that pets come and go, and while it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see a beloved dog or cat pass away, you understand that the sad day was always coming. For a child, the loss of a pet can be much harder. Children with pets that have been around since the child was very young may not even remember a time before the pet. They simply think of the pet as a member of the family that they were born into. For these reasons, it’s especially important to help your child work thorough the loss of a pet as best as you can.

One of the most important things to do as a parent is to not shelter the child from the loss of a pet.  As difficult as it may be, you need to be honest about how the pet is gone and will never return. Exactly how you do this and how much information you share should depend upon the age of the child. While it is ok to use the words death and dying with all age groups, young toddlers age 2 or 3 probably have no understanding of death. They might think of death as a kind of sleep. Be careful not to equate death and sleep, however, or the child may be afraid to go to sleep at night. Older children have a bit more understanding of death, but might not be clear on why it happens. Be sure that your child understands that no one is responsible for the death of the pet and that no one else in the family is in danger of dying just because the pet died.

Allow your child to deal with the loss of a pet in his or her own way. It’s natural for the child to feel guilty about times they were not nice to the pet or be angry that the pet was taken away. You may have these feelings, too, but you know they’re not rational. Help you child understand that the loss of the pet was not something anyone could control. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions in front of your child, either. It will help your child understand that it’s ok to cry when you’re sad and that they’re not alone.

Tell your child’s teacher about the pet’s death. This will allow the teacher to know how to deal with any changes in behavior. Ask your child if they want to write a letter to the pet or draw a picture of them. Hold a memorial service with the family and plant a tree or flowers in their memory. You could even create a virtual memorial online for your pet so your child can visit it from anywhere. Your child might like to keep something that belonged to the pet, such as a toy or tags. A great workbook of activities for helping children work through the loss of a pet can be found here.