Death of a Child’s Pet

Is the Ability To Teach A Child About Death In A Way That Will Give Them Life-Long Resilience And Understanding Worth $19.99 To You?

pet-dog-in-glasses-mfChildren who have been exposed to the concept of death as part of the life cycle are not as afraid as those whose families never spoke of it. Death and dying are not subjects that come on a daily basis, but when an opportunity arises, often with the passing of a family pet, it is important to take the time to talk about it.

Help young people to know that there is no such thing as a dumb question and they should feel free to ask about what they don’t understand.  Adults may be embarrassed or ill at ease, not because of the question, but because they may have fears and unresolved feelings.

Children do have an understanding that each of us will die at some point and those left behind will be sad and lonely.  The more prepared the whole family is in expressing not only feelings and emotions of sadness, but the joy and happiness that comes from being together, the easier it will be to discuss life and death.

Most young children are more curious than sad when a pet disappears.  However, it is a major turning point in their development when they see how adults deal with the loss of a pet. Remember, they are looking to you to see how to develop values, ethics and standards of behavior.

You will find most very young children ask questions to try to put the death experience in a framework they can understand and process. Under the age of six, they tend to be very self-centered and assume that they may have been responsible in some way for the disappearance.

Here are some specific ways to help the different ages and stages of children deal with the loss of a pet.

Under Six Years of Age

Children this young may not have had enough life experiences to truly understand what death, dying or long-term illness may mean.  They will sense your emotions and may be confused unless you explain why you are sad about the family dog being ill and the loss you will feel when he dies.

Be especially reassuring that you are not upset with them or anything they did as you maintain your normal schedule and feel your own grief.

Young children will welcome a new pet and easily connect with her.

Children Seven to 11 Years Old

This age group of tweens knows and understands that death is permanent. This may bring up some fears and feelings of what if a parent should become ill and die.

Young people, most do not like to be called children anymore, are much more interested in the details and the morbid aspects of the death.  This is normal and their questions need to be answered in an accepting way.

If they do not have an avenue for sharing feelings, emotions, and questions about the pet loss, they may have trouble sleeping, eating, or begin wetting the bed again.

Sometimes the pet loss triggers other disappointments and losses in life, and the child may become withdrawn while trying to figure it all out. Or, she may become aggressive, argumentative and antisocial in a veiled attempt to gain attention and comfort.

Young Adults Who Lose a Pet

The loss of a pet to this age group can be particularly hard.  The pet may have been a source of unconditional love and companionship during childhood. Many young people look at their pet as an anchor of childhood; always loving, forgiving and loyal.

Peer acceptance of expressing feelings can make the transition easier.  If the friends downplay the sorrow, the adolescent may bury the hurt feelings and questions in his heart, and not feel safe sharing them.

Remember this is the time in life when young adults are trying to find their own true feelings and discover who and what they are as individuals.  They may want your understanding, guidance and reassurance, but may use conflict to deflect the opportunities to share.

In our family, we have found the best conversations take place late at night, when the lights are dim and there is pizza to share.  Teens and young adults open up their sore places in their hearts when you aren’t eye-ball to eye-ball and busy with a million other things.

I encourage you to take the time in a relaxed setting to connect with your children about how to deal with the loss of their pet.  How this is handled now, will remain with them for the rest of their life and will have an influence on how they approach death of other loved ones later in life.

This ebook is the perfect conversation starter and tool to help you talk to your child about the subject of death and dying.Death of a Child’s Pet