When Your Child's Pet Dies

by Ann Douglas

When Pets DieAre you facing a situation similar to this scenario?

A family has a dog that is getting on in years. It's apparent that he won't have a lot of time with the family. The kids will probably take the loss pretty hard.

What can the parents do to help prepare the kids for the loss of their family pet? How can they make the situation easier when the "day" finally arrives?

Teaching Children About Life and Death

It's usually wise to help your children anticipate and prepare for the death of your other family member. Even though your family pet is not another human, they still have a huge and powerful influence on the human family members, especially kids.

If your children are still young, this might be the first time they've had to deal with the death of a pet or anyone close to them. That's always difficult and challenging. You can make the process a little a little less painful by teaching them that death is part of life.

There are a number of excellent children's books that explain this process in a healthy and healing way that makes sense to young children. I highly recommend Judith Viorst's book about the death of a cat, "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" and "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages" by Leo Buscaglia which is a simple story about the life cycle. Buscaglia explains how things are born and things die.

You might also find it helpful to put in place some rituals that will allow the kids to celebrate the life of their pet and treasure the time they had with him or her. Start a scrapbook devoted to your pet. Take lots of photos and videos of your pet so that you will have these images to treasure after he is gone. It's particularly important to get at least one photo of each of your children with your dog so that they will each have a special photo of the two of them together.

Here's something else to consider. You may find that you have to spend time coming to terms with your own thoughts and feelings about death as you start talking to your children about death.

Be prepared for ghoulish questions about what will happen to the pet's body after he or she dies as well as a barrage of questions about what will happen when you die. In other words, expect the unexpected.

How have you dealt with this situation? Share your advice and tips with other parents!

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.