How to Help Children Cope with Pet Loss

The loss of a pet will hit the entire family hard but children tend to be most vulnerable. A pet is a loved companion, a family member and a best friend for many little ones. It’s your task as a parent to help a child deal with the loss.

Choose Activities that will Help Children

Certain activities and rituals will make it easier for children to deal with the grief stemming from the loss of a pet. You can try at least one of the following:

•    Ask your child to draw a picture or to write a letter to the pet. This approach provides an outlet and the little one will express all negative emotions instead of keeping those bottled inside.
•    Organize a pet funeral. Make your child an active participant in the preparation process.
•    Take the memorial service seriously and get the entire family involved.
•    You and your child can collect all of the photographs you have with the pet and create a special album. Decorate it and add captions to the favorite pictures.
•    Get the child engaged in favorite activities – dance classes, sports practices, art and craft. Keeping them occupied will often lead to faster healing.

Warning Signs

Some children will need more time to overcome the loss of a pet. Others will have a very strong emotional response. Look for the warning signs of depression – these should be addressed by a professional.

A child that remains uninterested in favorite activities for a long period of time, refrains from eating, seems to be preoccupied with thoughts about death and is excessively afraid of being alone is probably taking the death of a pet much harder than expected. Be there to provide support and guidance. If necessary, talk to a therapist about it.

When should You Get a New Pet?

This is an important part of the healing process but some children could be resistant to the idea.

Getting a new pet is a personal choice. There’s no universal formula or timeframe for this step. You know well that a new pet is not going to replace the old one – take your time and get a new puppy or kitten only when you feel ready.

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