At some point in your family life, the inevitable is going to happen: your beloved pet is going to die. Pets tend to live for around twenty years at the most, with smaller animals perhaps only living for two or three years.
When this happens, parents can struggle to know what to say to their children. Broaching the topic of death is never easy. However, for many, it is their first encounter with the subject.
In this post, we take a look at some of the things that you can say and how to explain it. If a pet dies, experts recommend that you avoid just ignoring the issue or saying something vague that sounds nice. This just makes children feel anxious and mystified. Instead, parents need to go about the subject directly, explaining what’s really going on.
What Children Believe About A Pet’s Passing
As children, we all encountered the topic of people passing away. At some stage, we learnt the difficult truth about life: that it’s all going to come to an end one day. Over time, we gained an understanding of this reality and then pushed it out of our minds, hoping that it wouldn’t affect us.
Children, however, change the way that they view death as they get older. When they are aged three to five, they generally see it as a temporary or reversible thing and don’t really pay much attention to it. Often, they imagine that you can take a dead animal to the vet and they will revive it somehow.
As children get older – from ages 6 to 8 – they believe that dying is only something that happens to other people. It won’t affect them.
However, after that, most children learn that it is inevitable and something that they need to live with. Even so, they may continue to believe that the death of a pet is their responsibility somehow, even at more advanced ages.
How Parents Should Respond
Parents, therefore, need to respond in a way that’s appropriate for their child’s age bracket.
In some cases, a child may not appear to respond to a pet’s death. You might expect grieving, but in some cases, they won’t show it.
Usually, this is play acting. In many cases, the child is going through intense emotions but is not willing to show them.
Older children may sometimes overreact to a pet’s death. In many cases, they are not sure how to respond. Parents might want to take a step back in these situations.
How you deal with a pet’s death is also important, according to Paws To Heaven. And there are many different ways to organise it. You could, for instance, memorialise your pet with images of them in a shrine. Or you could scatter their ashes at sea.
Going through these rituals can be therapeutic for children. It reminds them that the world continues to function, even if their pet is not there.
Lastly, if you feel sad, it is okay for your children to see your grief. However, experts recommend against heavy sobbing, as this can be overwhelming.