How Do You Break The News To Your Child That Their Beloved Pet Is Dead

It’s hard enough for an adult to come to terms with the death of a pet. But children take it even harder. They grew up knowing their pet, and they won’t understand life without them being around. Death is something that scares children – it’s a concept they don’t fully understand and they won’t until they are much older. You need to break the news to them in a way that is subtle and sensitive, but without patronising them or belittling their feelings. Depending on how old your child is, you will need to take a different approach. Here is our guide to breaking the news to your children:

Pre-Toddler Age

Toddlers will certainly notice that the pet is no longer around, but they will be far more interested in the reactions of the people around them. If they see that other people are upset then they are probably likely to get upset themselves, but if they don’t see that then they will probably not bat an eyelid as they are too young to associate their own feelings with death and sadness. If they don’t pick up on it, it’s best just not to mention it.

Toddler – Five

Your child will get a much sharper sense of the world at this age and so they will definitely notice that your pet is missing. They may not understand that the disappearance isn’t temporary, so you may have some explaining to do. Use baby terms and explain that the pet has gone off to pet heaven, where it will now stay. Let them cry and be upset – they need to process their loss. Be prepared for many questions in the days and weeks ahead – they will still be expecting the pet to come back.

Five – Ten

The older the child gets, the more likely it is that they will be traumatised by the death. They will have learnt enough about the world to know that bad stuff happens, and things sometimes can’t be changed or fixed. They may feel bad that they didn’t spend enough time with the animal, or they may feel anger that you can’t bring them back. They will get through it, just talk gently with them and answer their questions honestly and sensitively.

Over Ten

If your child is over ten then they will have some pretty deep and intelligent questions to ask about death – it could open a whole can of worms. Reassure them that it doesn’t happen very often. Some people offer their children counselling. Older, more mature children may wish to see the dead body. This can be a good idea as it helps them to come to terms with the death, but only do this if you are sure they can handle it.

The death of a pet is always a sad thing to a child of any age, but it is also an important life lesson to them – things don’t always last forever. It may break your heart to watch them grieve, but just hold their hand and be with them – that’s all they really need.

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By Mickey Jones
Mickey Jones is a supervisor at Pet Heaven NQ which is a pet cemetery in Australia. He is very compassionate and especially good with children when they are sad.
By Guest Author

Puppy Education is a site dedicated for dog owners on how to train and look after their puppy. If you have a puppy and would like to share your own experiences and knowledge, you can write for Puppy Education.

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