Losing A Pet is the hardest part of having animals in your life. They bring us enormous pleasure and provide great companionship, so losing a pet can be devastating for an adult. Imagine, then, how it feels for a child when an animal – which may have always been part of their life – dies. Here are some tips to help your kids cope with losing a pet.
Having a little funeral ceremony helps kids to face losing a pet. It shows that the animal was important to them, and gives them the opportunity to say goodbye. A ceremony also marks the animal´s life and placing a memorial will give the kids a place to go and remember their pet.
Children may be keen to get another pet as they find the loss difficult to cope with. Or the parents may rush out to replace the lost pet. Timing is important – to the child, another pet will not be the same and they may not form the same bond if they are not ready.
Losing a pet can be made a little easier for kids if you give them the chance to talk when they need to. It might only be a hamster, for example, but to the child the loss can be enormous. Reassure them that their feelings are valid, and a natural part of grieving.
Without being morbid, try to explain that pets have a shorter lifespan than people, and that some day they will no longer be around. If the child is aware of this, they may be prepared to a degree, and better able to cope when the sad day comes.
There are lots of books aimed at kids which deal with the issue of losing a pet. Check out your local library or bookshop. Try ´Dog Heaven´ ($11.55 from amazon.com) or ´The Tenth Good Thing About Barney ($5.99 at amazon.com).
When a beloved pet has to be put to sleep, explain to the kids that it is suffering and so it is kinder to take this course of action. A responsible owner thinks of the animal´s welfare above all else, so you are doing the right thing for him or her.
Losing a pet is sometimes dealt with by a well-meaning parent explaining that the dog has gone to live elsewhere, or that it ran away and got lost. This approach can seriously backfire, as the child may think that it will be reunited with their pet, or want to visit it in its new home.
As well as holding a ceremony, keeping mementoes can help a child come to terms with losing a pet. Something as simple as the dog or cat´s collar or their favourite blanket can allow the child to still feel close to them, as may having photos of them on display.
Losing a pet is hard on anyone, whatever their age, but children are less able to rationalise and understand the loss than adults. So in order to help them cope with losing a pet, it´s important to deal with it in terms that they can understand, and accept that they may feel the loss very deeply. Are there any other ways that you have used to help kids with losing a pet?
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