Monday, March 23, 2009

Helping your Child Cope with the Loss of a Pet

It is common for many families to have pets in their home, whether they are cats, dogs, birds, snakes, and so on. They are treated as a member of the family. In a survey, conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, in 2007 it is estimated that 71.1 million American households own at least one pet. The most popular pets for families are cats and dogs.

However, since some animals have a very short life span than humans, it is common for a family’s beloved pets to pass away early on in life. This can be very difficult for adults, especially for children. If a child was raised with a family pet it is common for their affection to grow deeply for them. So if a pet dies, either from old age or by an accident, parents can help their children cope with the loss, since some children, depending on their age, would have difficulty understanding why they won’t be seeing them anymore.

For parents this can be difficult, because they don’t want their children to experience painful memories. So to avoid this they lie by telling their child that the animal “ran away” or “was put to sleep.” Doing this can actually cause more damage and confusion to the child.

For example, if they are told that their pet ran away they will assume that the pet will come back one day. Or if they are told that the animal “was put to sleep”, they might end up suffering from sleep anxiety. So the best advice is to be honest with them.

According to an article titled, “Explaining Pet Loss to Children: Six Do’s and Don’ts”, suggests to “help your children understand what dying means. Tell them it’s ok to grieve and share with them your feelings too. Let your child’s teachers be aware of the loss, so that they understand why your child is acting different. Don’t blame God or anyone else for the reason why the animal died, because this might cause the child to become bitter at heart. Also, do not rush into buying another animal as a quick replacement. Wait until after the grieving process or until the child expresses interest in another pet.”

From personal experience, the best advice is to focus more on the joyful memories the family had with their beloved pet, rather than focusing on the animal’s death.

Written by: Bridget Campos

Originally posted on March 23, 2009

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