Losing a pet may be a child’s first experience with death. While many young children do not fully understand the permanence of death, it’s still important to help them work through feelings of grief, guilt and loss. Here are 5 ways to help a young child cope with the death of a pet.
- Have a funeral. Funerals help people say goodbye and start the grieving process. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Get the whole family together and say a prayer, share scripture or tell stories about your pet.
- Look for opportunities to check in with your child as they process their emotions. Children often feel a sense of guilt and may believe that the pet died because they didn’t take care of it well enough. Reassure your child of how lucky your pet was to have your child in their life, and what a good job your child did caring for the pet.
- Provide positive outlets. Your child may feel angry, sad, numb, scared and unsettled. Let them know that it’s normal and it’s ok to experience these feelings. Help them cope by telling them to draw, paint or color their feelings. In fact, Play-Doh is great for helping young children work through anger and frustration.
- Exercise. Whether it’s riding a bike, taking a walk, running around the backyard, going to a dance class or sport practice, getting your child active can boost their mood, provide a sense of accomplishment and help them work out their frustrations.
- Plan something to look forward to. Help your child find joy again by arranging a play date, packing a picnic, visiting the playground or going to story time at the library.