While experts favor honesty and openness, pet euthanasia presents an exceptionally difficult challenge for parents. Some parents may choose not to go into detail with their children, but simply say that a pet died.
“Euthanasia is a difficult concept for adults to grasp, let alone young children,” Howie says. A child’s age and maturity level, as well as the pet’s health status, may dictate how much parents decide to share.
The way parents handle the death of a family pet can have lasting effects.
Helping kids deal with the grief from the death of a pet
• Don’t feel you need to hide your own sadness; children learn from and model adults’ emotions.
• Be open to providing comfort and answering questions about the pet’s death; these needs may pop up at any time, even long after the pet has died.
• If children show interest, help them draw pictures of their
• pet or make a scrapbook of memories. Talk with them during the process.
• Establish a family remembrance of your pet; a specific place, a special time or something you do together as a family to memorialize your lost friend.
• Take it slowly when considering a new pet; make sure everyone is ready.
Sources: Ann R. Howie; Kate Munson; Wallace Sife, Ph.D.