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How do you explain the loss of a pet to your child?

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No matter whether it’s the family dog or a beloved grandparent, it’s never easy to explain to a child that a loved one has passed away.

However, there are certain concrete steps that you can – and should – take. Whether it’s choosing an age-appropriate way to explain the death or even going out to choose a new pet, there are plenty of ways to manage.

In this article, we’ll share some top tips on how to navigate this situation and suggest ways to deal with the problem.

Is your child ready to understand death?

The first thing to think about when it comes to explaining the death of a pet to your child is what level of comprehension your child is at.
For example, if your child is mature and has demonstrated that they are able to cope with complex subject matters, then it may be worth being honest and upfront about what death is and the fact that it has happened.

If your child isn’t as mature, it may be best to shield your child by simply telling them that their pet has gone to sleep forever. If you are religious, you may want to consider telling your child that their pet has gone to live in the afterlife.

The most appropriate response won’t always be linked to how old your child is, as some children are particularly mature or immature for their age.

Taking practical steps

Depending on how the conversation goes, you may then want to think about taking some next steps in the direction of a memorial for your pet.

If your child is not too upset or floored by the information, cremation for your pet may be an option. By keeping the urn in a safe place or burying it in the ground, your child will have a place to remember their beloved pet.

Perhaps your child could draw a picture of their pet to go alongside the memorial, as this is a creative outlet for any grief that they may be feeling.

Moving on from the death

Finally, you’ll need to think about how you plan to deal with the issue in the long term. It’s likely that the death has left a pet-shaped hole in your life, especially if your pet was one that required certain ritual tasks – such as walking or cleaning.

It’s important to fill this time clearly and in a structured way. One option is to start a new tradition in your family, such as going for walks together even without the animal. Another option, of course, is to get another pet – and if this matches your budget and needs, it’s probably the best idea.

Ultimately, while it’s clear that dealing with the death of a much-loved family pet is never going to be easy, there are lots of ways that you can help your child. With a little love and care, your child will eventually accept that their pet is gone and begin looking ahead to whatever the future holds.

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