How Do You Prepare Your Kids For Saying Goodbye to a Family Pet?

Charlene Ross wants to know how to help your kids handle the death of a beloved family pet.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on Agoura Hills Patch, part of an initiative to reach out to moms and families. We invite you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Agoura Hills.

Each week in Moms Talk, our council of smart moms will take your questions, and share stories and solutions. Moms, dads, grandparents and the diverse families who make up our community will have a new resource for questions about the thousands of issues that arise while raising children.

Today's Topic: How do you prepare your kids for the death of a beloved pet?

This week's question comes from columnist Charlene Ross:

Our dog is very sick and it looks like she doesn't have much longer. How do we prepare our kids for the inevitable? This is our first family pet. She is 10-years-old. We rescued her six years ago when she was four. I really thought we'd have so much longer with her. Like any pet she is part of our family, and I'm not sure how the kids are going to handle it.

If we have to put her down do I take them with me? If she dies peacefully in our home do I let them see her afterwards? I am at a true loss as to what to do.

Susan Pascal May 11, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Moms Talk is live! Please give us your comments to a very sensitive issue!
Laura Moss May 11, 2011 at 08:12 PM
This is such a tough one Charlene. First off, I'm so sorry your baby is sick. Our pets give us so much and ask so little in return. I know it is difficult to watch her suffer. We had to deal with the passing of our beloved tortoise, Herman, not too long ago. Quite frankly, it came as a shock as we thought he would outlive us all and we frequently joked about who was going to get the little guy when we were "gone." My kids were so surprised by his sudden passing and they both handled it differently. My daughter was reserved and quiet while my son was affected more outwardly. Ultimately, we buried Herman in his favorite spot in the yard and gave the kids the opportunity to say goodbye. We told funny Herman stories and reminded each other what a great pet he had been. In the following weeks we touched base frequently to talk about our loss and they seem to be doing fine. Loosing a pet is often times a child's first experience with death and affording them the opportunity to share their feelings or ask questions is an important part of the process. While I feel for you and know that you are distraught over the condition of your dog, in many ways you are lucky. Your children will be able to say goodbye and tell your pet how much they love her. They can give her extra love and cuddles and feel like they are giving her a good send off. It will also give them time to prepare for the inevitable. Just some thoughts. My thoughts are with you. :-(
brenna May 11, 2011 at 08:50 PM
So sorry about your pet. I've not had this experience, but my Grandmother recently passed away from Cancer & my son was 4 yrs old. I really think it depends on the child, their age & how much you think they understand. I think it's importants to be honest, stick to facts & keep it simple. I think kids get confused if you try & make it easier by saying they went a way or they are gone. We knew my grandmother was terminal so for the last few months we made it a point to visit her often. At first she wasn't too bad just tired. As she got worse I would tell my son before the visit that she was sick & very tired. I would let him know as time passed that she was geting worse. I also think that is actually helped for him to see her at the end when she was very weak & bedridden. I didn't want to tell him before hand that she was dying only because I was afraid he might say something inapropriate or upsetting in front of her. I think if it was a pet I would tell him that he or she was dying beforehand. After she died I told him that she became very ill & her body was tired & her heart (my son is very into the body & how it works) & lungs stopped working. Depending on what you belive about death you can go into more about what happens after someone dies. I told him that although her body didn't work anymore her spirit would live on & would alway be in his heart. He ocationally will tell me that he misses her & is sad that she's gone & talks about her spirit.
Lori Hultin May 11, 2011 at 09:04 PM
So sorry to hear this, Charlene and I definitely sympathize more than you know. Our beloved labrador died last month - she was almost 14 and we'd had her since she was a puppy. My 18-year old daughter picked her out of a litter when she (my daughter) was 5 years old and of course, my younger daughter grew up with her from birth. We were honest with the girls, because they were certainly old enough to understand aging and the leukemia that had taken over Copper's body. They could see the effects of it and we had a family meeting finally one night when she was getting very bad and all agreed we did not want her to suffer. I let my girls grieve in their own ways, as they are totally different people. My older daughter could not bear to take her into the vet and said her goodbyes privately. My younger daughter insisted on going with us and being there until the end. I think you just have to do what you feel is best and right for your own children. It is never easy, but it does provide a great teaching opportunity for us as parents. It's important to incorporate your own beliefs about dying into whatever you say to your kids. My thoughts are with you as you go through this very difficult time.
Charlene Ross May 13, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Hey All, thanks so much for your great advice and condolences. Our dog passed away right after I wrote this article. It's been a tough couple of days, but I was with her when she went and was so happy that I could be with her and that she was not alone. She was such a blessing to our family. We're still in shock and a little lost without her, but we're pulling through. Again, thanks for the support!


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