Cape Cod Times Archives
Be honest with children when pet
By CAPE COD TIMES
Published: January 19, 2003
A pet's death is often a child's first encounter with the reality of death
and the meaning of grief.
see their child more upset by the death of a pet, even a goldfish, Biale
says, than they were about the death of a family member, but this reaction
is quite common for young children. A pet's death can reawaken feelings of
loss and pain for children who already have experienced the death of a
family member or a friend of the family, she notes.
Christine McNiff, a Concord-based mental-health counselor, often gets
calls from parents seeking advice on how to help their children cope with
the death of a pet.
"Parents are concerned about what to say," she says. "Do they tell them
the pet has gone to heaven or that it's lost?"
Here are some tips from McNiff and other counselors:
Be honest. "Don't say the pet ran away because the child will worry about
whether it will be safe or if it's coming back," McNiff says. Instead,
explain what happened in clear, simple terms the child can understand.
Memorialize the death. A memorial service or ritual that celebrates the
life of a pet can be especially comforting for children, McNiff says. Bury a
pet, for example, with its favorite toy.
Don't get another pet right away. Instead, allow your family time to
grieve, experts say. After an appropriate period of grieving, a pet can be
replaced by a new one, Biale writes, and most children will soon form a new,
Don't use confusing terms like "putting an animal to sleep" for
euthanasia. Instead, Dr. Evelyn Richer, associate veterinarian at Veterinary
Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, explains to children that their
pet is dying. "We aren't killing their pet but helping to make their dying
easier," she says.
- Johanna Crosby
Copyright, 2003, Cape Cod Times.
All Rights Reserved.