Letting a pet go is hard. Convincing a child to do the same is even harder.
If there's one thing that always stays with you, it's the memory of a beloved pet's passing. As adults, we know that death is a natural part of the life cycle, but when it comes to explaining the situation to a youngster, it can be difficult to prepare for the confusion or waves of emotions that come with it. If it's time for your pet to cross the Rainbow Bridge, here are some tips that'll make it easier to explain a pet's death to the little ones in your life.
Don't lie. Your dog didn't run away or go to a farm. Saying something like this doesn't spare their feelings, it only prevents them from getting closure. Explain that your pet is very sick, old, or in pain and the only kind thing to do for them is to let them pass in peace. If this situation happened recently to someone the child knows, you can delicately remind them so they know that a pet dying affects every household.
Time it well. Don't break the news before you put them on the school bus, after tucking them into bed, or during a special occasion. Wait until they get home from school on a Friday to have the conversation and give them the weekend to process their feelings.
Let them cry. This is not easy news for a child's mind to process and tears are guaranteed. Comfort them and tell them it's perfectly alright to cry when this happens. Don't force them to accept their pet's stage of life right away, especially if this is the first time they've experienced this.
Explain how a vet puts an animal down. Be transparent to a child in this regard. Let them know their pet will be made comfortable and will pass away painlessly in their sleep.
Bury them or place their ashes in a special place close by. If you're burying your pet, place them in a nice area where your child can visit if they'd like. Decorate a rock as a unique grave marker or plant flowers nearby for all to enjoy as time goes on. For those who opt to cremate their pets, keep the ashes in a pet urn or have the child choose where to spread their remains.
Make a memory box for your child to treasure. Put items like the pet's paw prints, favorite toy, collar, and pictures in a small box that your child can keep and look at when they feel sad about the absence of their pet.
The worst day of any pet owner's life is the day you have to say goodbye. Since children don't yet possess the emotional wherewithal to grasp the natural life cycle, this subject needs to be handled delicately. Give them warmth, empathy, and allow them to talk. Acceptance will come with time and they too will learn to cherish the time they have with their four-legged, winged, or finned friends.