When asked about the subject of children and death, a child psychologist once said, “If you want to raise an angry child, keep him/her ill-informed.” In other words, honesty is always the best policy. How a child responds will always be a reflection of his or her strength of the bond with the pet, mental status, age, gender, and development stage.
Loss of a Pet When Kids Are Under 5 Years Old
How a parent reacts to a pet’s death tends to be the barometer for how young children process the loss. Stay away from euphemisms like “he was sick” or “she is asleep”. That may elicit fear when the words are used with their normal meaning. Direct, clear communication is best. For example, “Mommy is sad because Stoli died”.
What to say to children Ages 6 to 12
School-age children are curious, intelligent, and resilient. Losing a pet is typically their first experience with death. The loss can be very difficult, so it is a good time to model dealing with intense feelings appropriately. Children in this age group should not be shielded from the experience.
How to Talk to Your Teen about Pet Loss
Teenagers and young adults can be the most challenging to work with because they frequently have a hard time accepting a decision to euthanize a pet. Discuss the situation, ask open-ended questions, and seek feedback to ensure they understand why and how a medical decision is being made.
It’s hard for anyone at any age to deal with the loss of a pet. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and share stories and happy times you had with your pet. For additional resources on helping children cope with the loss of a pet, visit the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice website.