The loss of a pet is not usually easy for anyone, but it can be especially hard on a child.
Many younger children do not understand what has happened. This is especially true if the pet has to be euthanized.
Your child may act out, withdraw, or have difficulty sleeping. For most children, this is the normal grieving process.
Putting a Pet “To Sleep”
Many pets have to be euthanized or put to sleep due to age, illness, or injury. It can very difficult for a child, especially those under the age of five, to understand what is about to happen.
While you may want to tell your child that their favorite pet “has gone to heaven” or “they went away,” you’ll need to go a little bit deeper. The phrase “putting to sleep” may be confusing to a child.
Make sure you explain that their pet won’t be in pain anymore. It’s perfectly acceptable to use your religious beliefs in the explanation. For older children, you may need to go a little more in depth and explain what has happened to the pet that requires euthanasia.
Many children will have a difficult time if they see the pet after it has been put down.
Finding a Pet Dead
This is especially hard on a child. The shock is often much more severe than if a pet had to be euthanized. If your child has found their pet dead, ask them what they would like to do.
Would they like you to bury it or would they like to have a type of memorial service. Most children will want to participate in the service; however, don’t push your child.
Each one will be affected differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve unless it starts to interfere with their everyday life.
Getting Another Pet
If your child wants to get another pet, make sure it’s not as a complete replacement for the one that died. Don’t tell your child that their pet was just a goldfish and that another one will be the same.
It’s also not a good idea to try and replace the pet without your child knowing it. Most children, even those as young as three or four, will usually be able to tell the difference.
When Grieving Doesn’t Seem to End
While each child will get over losing a pet in their own time, some may have a more difficult time than others. You may find they are quarrelsome, angry, uninterested in normal activities, or want to sleep[baby sleep] a lot.
These are normal reactions, but only for a short time. If your child seems to have difficulty moving on, then you may want to have a counselor meet with your little one to help them move forward.
Loss Is Never Easy but It Can Be Dealt With
Losing a pet can be a devastating experience for many children. Listen to your child and encourage them to talk about how they feel. Be sure to get help if your child seems to be having a more difficult time than expected.