We all love our cats, dogs, lizards, snakes, hamsters, and other family pets, so when one dies, the entire family might go into mourning. If you have children, your burdens are even higher because the loss of a pet is often one of the first experiences that children have with death. If you’re a parent that wants to help your child ease through some of the difficulties of accepting the death of a pet, you can take a look at these five ways to help your children cope with losing a pet.
Get a New Pet
If you’ve recently lost a dog, you can get a new puppy or a rescue dog to help children ease through some of the pain of losing a loved animal. Timing is crucial, though. PetFinder recommends letting your child have their feelings rather than rushing them through or trying to cover up the loss of the pet. Replacing the pet too quickly can send the message that animals are disposable. The new animal should help your child understand that most pets die before their owners and that there’s the opportunity for new love. If you have a pet that’s getting older or is sick, you can also introduce a new animal before the old or sick one dies so that children have the opportunity to bond with the new animal.
Create a Memorial
While you don’t want your child to become depressed or brood on the loss of a pet for months, it’s perfectly natural for children to need some kind of process that lets them show that they loved their pet. Let your child participate in a pet memorial. For instance, Pet Pod points out that you can get your pet’s remains integrated into a soil that will feed a fully rooted and growing outdoor or indoor seedlings. Make sure that the memorial has a positive tone so that your child knows that, although they loved their pet, it’s okay to move forward and be happy even though the pet is gone.
Talk to Your Child
Child Development Institute explains that depending on the age of your children, you might have one who has no concept of death. If you have a young child who has never had this experience before, this is a good time to explain to them that this is a perfectly normal part of living. You can even approach the topic of human death so that they understand that this, too, is normal. Although your child can be sad, it’s also important to maintain an open line of communication so that your child feels safe and can go to you if they have questions.
Share Memories of Your Pet
One way to ease the loss of a pet is to have your entire family share with each other about the good times that you had with your pet or have some other way to memorialize them. Funeral Wise suggests that, similar to grieving over the loss of a family member or friend, sharing stories about your pet with each other can help you memorialize them. You can also write down memories and put them in a place where everyone can reach the slips of paper and read a story about your dog. If you have particularly young children who can’t yet read and write, they can simply draw a picture so that they can be involved in the process of creating the memories.
Keep a Picture Up
Similar to sharing memories together, putting up a picture or displaying one of your pet’s favorite toys is a way that your children can remember your dog or cat. Put it in the living room or another communal room so that children all feel like they have equal access to the memory.
When you’re helping your children grieve, it might be tempting to try to cover up the loss by telling them that your pet ran away or went to Grandma’s house. But children are smarter than you think, and they’ll figure out your ruse quickly. Then, they won’t feel like they can turn to you about their grief. Instead, invest in a few activities to help your child respect and acknowledge their love for their pet.
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