When Your Child’s Pet Dies (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
What’s the best thing to do when your child’s pet dies and your child is inconsolable? What do you say to your child? How do you help your child to cope with the grief of losing their little friend?
Losing a pet is never easy. And the average lifespan of a pet makes it an inescapable fact that your child will experience the loss of that pet either in late childhood or during the teenage years. Often the death of a beloved pet is the first real brush with death in the life of a child, unless a close family member has died recently or the loss has occurred through the accidental death of a school friend.
So, the death of a pet can be an important milestone in a child’s development. How you as a parent deal with the situation is important as it sets a precedent for how your child will deal with death during the course of their lifetime.
The least helpful thing that a parent can do after the death of a pet is to rush out and buy another one straight away. Although it is an understandable reaction by a parent to want to stop the pain that their child is experiencing, it is important to resist this almost overwhelming impulse. Yes, it is very easy to go out and purchase another pet, and you will feel better seeing your son or daughter playing with a cute new puppy or kitten. And they will smile and laugh again, so how can that be a bad thing? Shouldn’t we just get on with life?
Unfortunately, rushing to buy a replacement does not allow your child to grieve for the pet that is gone. Learning to go through the grief process is an important life skill, one that will be called on again and again during the course of a lifetime. The death of the family pet is an ideal opportunity to teach your child how best to deal with that grief. Immediately replacing a pet denies your child the opportunity to grow emotionally, to pass through the stages of grieving, and to come out on the other side with a stronger, more resilient character.
Next article, we will look at better ways to deal with the death of the family pet.