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Telling your kids about the death of a pet – how not to scar them

Author GreatDad Writers
Submitted 22-11-2011

Over the years, pets can become beloved members of any family, which can make their death especially difficult to handle for children who grew up alongside a favorite dog or cat. When your child comes home from school or is having an off day, the family pet is often the first one to greet and comfort them. Before long, many children consider their pets to be as close as best friends. As a dad, all of these factors can make explaining the death of your family pet to your son or daughter even more difficult.

Depending on the age of your child, this may be his or her first real experience with death. Whether this is the case or not, you should use caution when explaining the circumstances of your pet's passing while being sensitive to your child's age and level of maturity. There's no need to lie or cover up the truth, but present it in a way that's easier to hear and understand for your little one.

If the pet was old or ill and had to be euthanized, explain that it died peacefully and without feeling pain or fear. Exercise caution when using euphemisms like "going to sleep," as children between ages three and five often believe death is only temporary and may misunderstand your meaning, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Avoid covering up the truth, as your child will likely discover the facts sooner or later and resent your deceit. Death is a natural part of life, and your child needs your support and guidance to help come to terms with that.

You can expect a few days of sadness or melancholy from your child following a pet's passing, but don't feel the need to make everything better all at once. Allow your child to grieve for a time and share this loss with them. By showing that you are equally affected, you can come together as a family to cherish the memory of a beloved furry friend.