Telling Your Child About The Death Of A Pet: An Age-Based Guide

Children of varying ages have different ideas about death. While the concept of death is difficult for many toddlers and young children to comprehend, older children tend to understand quite well. As you can imagine, the more a child understands, the more they will react and grieve over the news. Children who don’t understand can also become very confused when too much information is given. For these reasons, you need to tell your child that their pet has died in a way that’s appropriate for their age. Following are a few age-based tips that will help you tell your child about the loss of their pet.  

Ages Two and Three

It is very difficult for children in this age group to understand death. In most cases, they think their pet is merely asleep and will wake up later. As their parent, you need to help your child understand as best you can, but you don’t want to give them too much information. Tell them that their pet has died and will not return. Toddlers tend to bounce back from such news rather quickly. You can expect bouts of sadness along with stretches of time where they seem to have forgotten about it. 

Ages Four, Five and Six

Children in this age group understand death a little bit more. However, they often view it as a change in existence rather than the end of it. For example, if you bury the pet, they may imagine that the pet is still able to eat and play underground. Young children may also begin to fear death at this age. Therefore, it’s very important that you explain why the pet died and reassure them that they are not going to die.

Ages Seven, Eight and Nine

Children in this age range are very curious about death, so you should expect to answer a lot of questions after you break the news. Always reply to such questions with honest answers. Don’t answer vaguely, as it could make their grieving worse. For example, if you tell your child that their pet was put to sleep, they may begin to fear sleep. It’s important in this age range to explain the mechanics of death, but don’t give them more information than they ask for.

Children ages 10 and over usually understand and deal with death much like adults do. However, the emotions they experience after the death of their pet are often new to them, so they may not know how to deal with them very well. With older kids, it’s a good idea to reassure them and let them grieve in the way that seems to work best for them. For further assistance, contact local professionals, such as those from Spring Hill Veterinary Clinic.