August 15, 2012

Tips for Parents: Helping Your Child Cope with Losing a Pet

Katie Wangelin, MSW, LCSW
Kids Path Support Services Team Manager

  • Allow your child to grieve his or her loss. Understand that the magnitude of the loss may be different for your child than it is for you. Allow your child to experience all of the emotions and reactions that accompany the grief process.
  • Children in the same family faced with loss may express their grief in very different ways. Allow children to grieve in whatever way is best for them.
  • Just as an important person cannot be replaced, neither can a pet.
  • Don’t push your child into getting a new pet in an attempt to divert his or her grief. Let your child decide when the time is right for a new friend.
  • Help your child remember the pet that died by establishing a memorial. Place a special marker at the site where the pet is buried, or plant a special flower or shrub to mark the site. Having a memorial service or funeral may also help your child say goodbye.
  • For many children, losing a pet is their first experience with death. Use this opportunity to speak with your child about death and dying.
  • Being open with your child about death now, will help prepare him or her for other losses in the future.