Losing a family pet is hard enough to deal with, having to deal with your kids’ grief while you are grieving too can make it doubly hard. How you tell your kids about the death of the family pet will depend largely on the maturity and age of your children. Some kids will grasp the concept of death being permanent much earlier in life than other kids, and that’s ok. Dealing with pet dying grief of kids can be tricky, but here are some guidelines that may help out.
Children less than two years old simply will not be able to grasp the concept of death. They will, however, pick up on the stress in the household that the other family members are feeling due to their grief. The best thing to do is to try to keep everything as normal as possible and spend a little extra time with your child so that they can feel a little comfort at this confusing time.
Children under the age of seven may have a hard time comprehending the fact that death is a permanent thing and that their pet is never coming home. The best way to handle this is to let them know that it is alright to miss their pet, cry, and feel sad. Don’t ignore your grief or theirs since that will just make them think that death doesn’t matter. Instead share your grief. Let them know that you are sad too and that you miss your pet. Be very careful when you tell them you are putting your pet to sleep. This term can be very frightening to young children since they can associate sleep with death.
Older children and pre-teens will have a better understanding of the permanence of death and will probably have more questions. Try to answer their questions as completely and honestly as you can. Encourage them to ask questions and if they ask you something you can’t answer, tell them that. Let them know that it’s perfectly normal to feel bad and that everyone deals with things differently. There is no right way to grieve.
If you are putting your pet down it’s might be best to not have the child in the room at the time. It is important, however, to let your child know that you are taking the pet to have it euthanized, don’t say put to sleep, and give a brief, age appropriate explanation why. Give your child a chance to say goodbye to their pet. Just having your pet disappear one day can cause more emotional pain than having your child say goodbye and grieve along with the rest of the family.
Having to deal with pet dying grief kids just adds another stressful component to the loss of a beloved family member. By using these tips, however, you might be able to lessen the stress of the situation. Just remember, everyone is different and the age and maturity level of your child will be the biggest deciding factors in how you deal with it.