5 ways to help your child deal with the death of a pet
The death of a beloved pet is difficult to deal with at any age. However, the main difference between adults and children is that adults know that death is imminent, while children may expect their pets to live forever. Follow these tips to help your child deal with a pet’s death in a healthy way.
1. Ensure that your child is ready for a pet
The moment a child expresses interest in owning a pet, obtain as much information as you can about the species and breed of the pet he or she wants. It’s important for children to understand that animals, just like humans, can contract health problems and pass away.Talking to them about this is also a good way to teach the child about the responsibilities that come along with getting a pet, like feeding and maintenance. Use your parental instincts to decide if your child is ready for a pet, or if you should wait a few more years.
2. Don’t allow a pet to be your child’s sole companion Some parents decide to buy a pet for their child to curb their loneliness and act as a companion. While it is healthy for children to form positive relationships with pets, children also need to spend lots of time with their parents, siblings and other children of their age.
Children who feel like their pets are their ‘closest friends’ will take the death of a pet very badly. Don’t prevent your child from being emotionally invested in his pet but ensure that the child also has close friends and family members that he can confide in as well.
3. Remember the good times
It’s best to remind children of all the great memories that they have formed with their pets. Let them know that your pet has lived a long, happy and fulfilling life and teach them to be thankful for those special moments. Be honest with your child but spare them unnecessary details if you feel like they may not be able to handle it. It’s all right to use phrases like “Doggy heaven” to ease the emotional blow.
4. Allow your child to grieve
An important step in dealing with any death is experiencing closure. If your child wants to have a ‘funeral service’ for your pet, then let him do so. Parents should take the grieving process seriously and encourage children to express their sadness in a healthy manner.
5. Don’t rush out to buy them another pet
Parents should not try to ‘replace’ deceased pets with new ones just to appease their children. Even though children may request for a new pet almost immediately, it’s essential to give children time to recover and move on from the death of their pet. In the meantime, spend lots of quality time with your child and remind him that he can always talk to you when he feels sad or misses his pet.