Goodbye, beloved furball
Parents sometimes have to help kids say goodbye to their beloved pets.
I can remember the time I got back from school and Adrian was dead. Adrian was my pet rat, and he’d not made it through the day. His body was cold and stiff, and it was shocking to me that he wasn’t going to bounce up onto my hand and twitch his nose again. I buried him in the garden in a little box. My parents did their best to comfort me. [I did dig him up a few months later to see what effects burial had had in his body. Sorry, Adrian].

Pets. I’d never had much luck with them. The first family cat, Benjamin, had a run-in with a fish van and, it was later revealed, was helped to die by the vet at my father’s request.

I have attended many toilet-bowl farewells for various fish over the years, too. Those were a bit fascinating for me as a child, as it seemed more like the fish were being liberated down some mysterious tunnel to the sea.

My hamster, Scamper, simply “disappeared” while I was away at camp. I think my parents may have taken him to the vet, too. That’s what happened to Ivan, the cat- again, while I was away from home.

A couple of years ago my son's pet rat, Jack became ill. We took him to the vet, who couldn't do anything to help him. Jack came back in a box lined with a bed of flowers. We cried as we buried him. A couple of months later, my son asked, Dad, can we dig Jack up to see what he looks like?

Déjà vu.

For all of the wonderful sides to having family pets, parents sometimes have to consider difficult options when their dogs, cats or other furry friends become old and infirm. Sometimes euthansia is the only option if a dog has become extremely aggressive.

It’s quite a controversial issue: if you decide that euthanasia is the best option for a pet that is very ill, what do you say to your children? If you choose to allow your pet to pass away peacefully at home, how do you help your kids through the inevitable process?

Pets: Good dogs, bad dogs, bad kids, good kids on Parent24

One vet recommends:

•    Using correct language: When explaining death to kids, say that the pet is dead or dying rather than using euphemisms. (Saying that the pet is being “put to sleep” for example may cause a young child to fret at bedtime every night.)

•    There are some great books that help children to deal with the loss of a pet. You may find these online or at your local book shop or library.

•    Some vets will allow children to be present during euthanasia, if the parents decide that this is appropriate, and the vet can also help to explain what happens to the pet. Chat to your vet about what’s appropriate, and at what age it may help a child to be present. Some suggest that this offers a child closure- seeing a dead pet- depending on the child’s age.

•    Families may also want to remember their pets by doing something around the home such s planting a tree or setting up a special stone in the garden.

Of course, as Sarah Probst suggests in her article “Explaining Pet Death to Children”, the parent will also be grieving the death of a family pet, and it’s entirely appropriate for parents to cry and show grief, too. Children may ask strange questions about death as they process grief, and parents can help their kids by discussing the process and concept of death.

Do you have any tips for parents on helping kids to grieve pets?

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