When a beloved family pet dies, children can take it hardest of all. For many, it may be their first encounter with death so it is often a confusing and frightening experience. Give children the opportunity to grieve and feel sad, while providing support and understanding during this difficult time.
Some hints that can help children cope with the loss of a pet are:
Talk about it. Don't lie or tell big stories about what has happened to the pet; be open and honest. Death is confusing, so help your child understand it better by talking it out. If it makes things easier, share books or videos about death to clarify things.
Give them closure. Make sure that you allow your child some sense of closure. This might be in giving the child the chance to say goodbye to a pet, or it may be holding a funeral or service. Give your child time to come to grips with the fact that their pet has passed away.
Distract with a task. It can help young children to be distracted with a productive task or creative endeavor. You might enlist their help making a memorial photo collage for your pet or by assigning them to clean up the yard for a small family service. Things that contribute to the situation can help get the child's mind off the loss and give them a sense of purpose.
Create something beautiful. Create something beautiful to be a lasting memorial to your pet. Plant a garden, construct a stone cairn, or make personal garden tiles that pay homage to your deceased. This will also provide the perfect place for your child to go to feel closer to their pet.
Consider adoption. Let your child determine if they want another pet after the loss. While it can be cathartic and therapeutic to adopt or rescue an unwanted animal, it may also make the child feel that their deceased pet is being minimized or disrespected. Give them time to make the call.
Save a keepsake. Before you donate or discard your pet's supplies, save something for your child to keep, like a collar, tags, or toy. Print out photos to frame and display or to give to your child. These simple sentiments can really help a child find comfort when they miss their friend.
Use these tips to help children cope with the loss of a pet in a healthy way, and to also help them understand a bit more about death. Click this link for more information.