Losing a pet is difficult for every member of the family, especially for children, no matter what the age. They have limited, or no experience of death, so helping children cope with pet loss is extremely important. By doing so, they can deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Supporting them as they go through this sad time reassures them that they are not alone.
Tips on Helping Children Cope with Pet Loss
Acknowledge their Emotions
People grieve in different ways, and this is the same with children. It is crucial to allow them to let their emotions come out.
Avoid telling your youngsters how they should feel or how they should act as they deal with the pain. Trivialising their emotions and telling them to “be strong” may cause them to feel like a failure. They may also feel the pressure to be strong when and they’re not capable of doing so at this time.
Instead, LISTEN INTENTLY. Acknowledge how they feel and reassure them that you are there for them. As long they are not destructive to themselves or others, validate their emotions and let them grieve the way they prefer.
Children get input from many sources, but the most powerful influence in how they handle events in their lives are their parents and their adult caregivers.
One way of helping children cope with pet loss is to share YOUR emotions. This helps them understand that others are also feeling the same pain and sadness and that it is acceptable and normal to feel emotions. This will also encourage them to speak with you openly as they know they won’t be judged.
Discuss the Concept of Death (should be age-appropriate)
Children will understand the concept of death as they age. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it provided that you carefully consider their age when you answer their questions.
Toddlers (2-3 years old) are unlikely to understand what is exactly happening. They may look for their pet and ask the same questions over and over again, so be patient and answer in simple terms without elaborating.
4-6-year-olds will view the loss of their pet as a change in their furry buddy’s existence. You can tell them that their pet now lives in the sky or somewhere beautiful, whatever is appropriate for your beliefs.
Children at this age are more likely to feel responsible for their pet’s death. So keep reassuring them that it isn’t their fault. Avoid scolding them if they ask too many questions and instead, encourage an open conversation.
Adolescents and teens tend to deal with the loss of a pet, much like adults do. Open up to them and ask how they are feeling. Reassure them that you are there to support them as they go through this painful ordeal.
You can also include them in planning a memorial ceremony or get their inputs on what they want to do now that their pet is gone.
Memorialise their Pet
When children are involved, a little bit of creativity will work wonders.
Here are a couple of tips:
Bowl of Memories
- Provide them with papers, writing and colouring materials.
- Ask them to write or draw all the wonderful memories they’ve had with their pet.
- Keep the bowl in a safe place.
When they start to miss their animal friend, you can let the children pick out from the bowl, and they can reminisce the particular memory written. You can start talking about it with them about it with a positive and happy tone.
Tribute Video or Portraits
Create tributes by putting together home videos and a collage of your pet’s photos. Your teen children, especially those who are tech-savvy, can help in creating this, making them feel that they are a huge part of the tribute.
Helping Children Cope With Pet Loss: Our Duty
Helping children cope with the loss of a pet is an important responsibility for parents and adults. As they go through a tough time, make sure that you are ready to listen, answer their questions and offer a tight, caring hug!
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