A child’s best friend is often their pet, and losing that pet is a heartbreaking experience for them. Death is very upsetting and confusing for children, and the loss of a pet is often their first encounter with it. Although we can’t protect them from having to go through it, there are healthy and supportive ways that you can effectively communicate the loss of their pet to them.
Take Your Child into Consideration
You will get all kinds of advice from books, websites, and even well-meaning friends or family members about how to break the news about the loss of your beloved pet to your child. However, you should always take your child’s age and emotional maturity into consideration when you’re thinking about how to tell them about the death. Allow them to guide you with their questions and their depth of understanding while you’re explaining it.
Always Tell the Truth
It’s important to tell your child the truth when you’re talking to them about the death of a pet. While you might think it’s easier to just tell the child that their pet went to live on a farm or ran away, it’s really not. Your child will still be heartbroken by the loss. When they eventually find out the truth about what happened to their beloved pet, they will also feel betrayed.
Allow Your Child to Grieve
The grieving process is important to coping. Let your child grieve the loss of their pet, and allow them to talk about their pet often. If your child is grieving silently, share your memories of the pet with your child and encourage the child to open up and share theirs. By sharing your feelings and allowing your children to watch you grieve, you’re setting an example for them that it’s okay to grieve and show emotions.
Have a Funeral for the Pet
Having a funeral for the pet will allow you and your child the opportunity to grieve openly and say goodbye. Be sure to include your child in all of the planning for the funeral. Being involved will help your child to feel like they are a part of everything, and it will help them feel more attached to their pet as it heads to its final resting place.
Encourage Your Child to Remember Their Pet
Help your child make a scrapbook to remember their pet, or encourage them to draw pictures of them and their pet together. Treasured memories like these will help them through the grieving process so that they will be able to deal with the loss of their pet more effectively.
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