Explaining the Death of a Pet to Your Kids

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Explaining the Death of a Pet to Your Kids

One of the more difficult parts about losing a pet, may be explaining the death of a pet to your kids. For most kids, pets are family, their best friends. Who greets them at the door when they come home? Do your children have private chats with their pets? Do they seek comfort and companionship from them? Do the animals help your children feel less alone in the world?

It’s natural to want to protect your kids from the unpleasant. But death is a reality of life, and you won’t be doing them any favours to pretend otherwise. If you handle the conversation correctly, explaining the death of a pet to explaining the death of a pet to your kidsyour kids can be a wonderful opportunity for you to teach them important lessons about loss, and how to deal with it in healthy ways.

Please don’t pretend nothing happened, or tell them the pet went away/ran away. It isn’t fair to leave them hoping their pet will return some day. They need to understand they’re gone permanently.

I may be stating the obvious here, but don’t just throw the news out there to them. Gather everyone in a quiet room, no distractions. Once you’ve told them, encourage them to express their feelings.

Explaining the death of a pet to your kids may not be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

 

Have you been in this position before? How did you handle it? Would you like to share your experiences so others can gain some helpful tips to use with their children? Just leave them in the comment section below.

Explaining the Death of a Pet to Your Kids
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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10 thoughts on “Explaining the Death of a Pet to Your Kids

  1. Thanks for the great advice. We had a pet cat that got hit by a car, it was a really difficult experience for all of us. But we found the best way was to be straight and sympathetic with our 9 year old son, who was and still is devastated.

    We simply explained in simple terms what had happened and then tried to concentrate on the good times that we had with our pet. We looked at photos and explained that none of us would ever forget the good times that we had together.

    1. Hi Andrew, thank you for sharing that story, it really is sad especially when it’s something as senseless as an accident. As tough as it is to do, it sure sounds like you handled such a tough situation very well.

  2. I have never had to explain the death of a pet to a child, but I remember when my parents did it for me when I was very young. I think they handled it pretty well looking back, but I haven’t owned a pet since! I’m a newly wed and before we start with children we want to have dogs so I know that once we do the children will be really attached as I was when I was younger. I definitely want them to be able to move on with life but still remember their reliable pet friends. I can’t say that I would know exactly what to say!

    1. Hi Veronica, thank you for sharing that experience. It’s certainly very insightful to hear the experience of someone who had to be told, and helpful to hear what worked. How nice that you want your kids to grow up with animals. I always find it sad when I see kids afraid of them for no reason. If you’re ever in that situation, I’m sure you’ll know what to say, or check back here for some help!

  3. hi Hindy!
    Boy that is a tough one. Losing a pet is a big deal for a family. And I would say that depending on the child’s age, the way it is explained will vary. As younger children do not have yet a firm understanding of death. But I am a big believer in telling the truth to kids. No sense giving them the hope that their pet will come back as you said. It is about having a frank conversation and really giving them the space to express what they feel or think and helping them express it (as they might not really know how to describe their feelings or even how they feel).

    1. Hi Emily, I know I hate even writing posts like this, but I think they’re important and necessary. It is true, explanations will be different depending on kids’ ages and even maturity level. As impossible as it seems to tell your kids what happened, I think it’s cruel to leave them hoping their pet will come back one day. It is important to let them express themselves, and if they don’t yet have the words, find other outlets like colouring, or planting flowers… anything that will provide them an outlet, and allow them to say goodbye.

  4. We haven’t got a pet yet and one of the things I dread the most is having to tell my kids when a pet dies.
    I recently found a puppy on the side of the road that had been dumped. It was full of fleas and had very bad worms. It was terrified and shaking, I am sure by its behaviour it had been abused.
    I did the only thing I could, yes I took the poor thing home! I gave her a bath, dewormed her, gave her a good meal and gave her some love.

    We couldn’t keep her. I knew that from the moment I put her in my car. We are renting and we don’t even have a fence around our property and we have other reasons too for wanting to wait to get a puppy.

    We kept her for a week because I just had to firstly nurse her back to health, and also because I wanted to find her a good, safe home and not just give her to the animal welfare.

    When I had found a home for her my two children (2 yrs old and 4 yrs old) were absolutely devastated even though I had told them from the first moment and kept reminding them, that we were just looking after her for a bit.

    It is so sad and makes me realize how much of an impact these lovable pets make on our children’s lives.

    1. Hi Lynne, First let me say how kind it was to take the puppy home. How many cars drove by without stopping to save her life. I’m also happy to hear you found her a home, and didn’t leave her in a shelter – too many of which are just slaughterhouses in disguise – but I digress! It’s amazing how quickly your kids got attached, so of course how horrible it is to tell them a pet has died. I wouldn’t avoid bringing an animal into the home because one day you’ll have to say goodbye. It’s horrific and painful, and I’ve done it too many times, but the fun and the joy and the whole “saving a life thing” more than makes up for it. Don’t let the lack of a fence stop you, but I understand you have other reasons. I’m glad you’re waiting until you’re ready, and not rushing like so many people do, just because the kids are begging. I’m available to help you in any way, should the day come when you decide to get a pet.

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