How did your first pet die

How do I explain to my child that our pet has died?

Losing one's own animal is difficult for many - especially children. Regardless of whether Mieze or Bello are suddenly no longer there or the hamster is dead in the cage: Many parents wonder how they should explain to their children that the pet has died, or how and where they bury the animal.

The death of the pet and the associated grief of the children renders many helpless. Some parents may therefore be tempted to just get a new animal quickly. But that's the wrong way to go, explains psychotherapist Silke Haase to the page “Pediatricians on the Internet”. Because: "With that you simply get over the grief."

It is much more important to give space to the grief of children, to take them seriously and to mourn with them. Because the bond between children and pets is often very close and is almost similar to that to family members and friends. Therefore, when a pet dies, it is perfectly normal for children to grieve - no matter how small or large the animal is.

Even so, parents shouldn't just let the dead animal "disappear" or come up with a story. “It is better if children find out the honest reason for the death of the animal. They can feel when their parents are hiding something from them anyway, ”says Silke Haase.

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Sentences like “He's only sleeping” are counterproductive: When in doubt, some children are only afraid of falling asleep themselves and not waking up.

Parents should also be open about their own grief and not hide it. It helps to communicate your feelings towards the children. When parents show their children that they are sad too, children can better classify their own feelings. And if your child has a lot of questions about the pet's death, you should answer them as honestly and calmly as possible.

How can you also help your children grieve for a pet that has passed away? So-called mourning rituals are important for children. For example, they could write a farewell letter to the animal. For some, it also helps to put personal items such as your own cozy blanket in the animal's grave.

Important to know: Children grieve in phases. Perhaps that is why the first wave of mourning seems to be over after a few days. But even months later, the pet's death can become an issue again. Parents should then react sensitively and not just block off the children's questions or worries because death was supposedly a long time ago.

Giving children the opportunity to say goodbye

A special situation arises when the animal does not die by itself but has to be euthanized. Then parents can include the children in the farewell. It is important for the children to be able to say goodbye to their animal friends before the redeeming syringe. Cuddling with them and saying goodbye to them. In principle, children can also be present when they are put to sleep - but of course only if they really want to.

And a new pet? Parents should only buy this when the child expresses this wish themselves.