Preparing Your Children for the Death of a Pet

death-of-a-pet-1Preparing your children for the death of a pet is one of the moments of parenting that no one looks forward to. But when the time comes, it is so very necessary. Our family rescued a sweet Yorkie named Butch in October 2009. Finding out that he had an inoperable, aggressive form of cancer in December turned us upside down. I, myself, was trying to process what was happening to our precious pet when I realized that I also had to prep my children for the days to come.

So much depends on the age of your children, but as for mine – they are ages 11 and 10. We decided to be honest about the prognosis and gauge where we went from there by their reaction to the news. As expected, the children were upset, but they craved information. So here is the steps we took from there…

My first piece of advice in preparing your child is to gather lots of data that you can share. Try to anticipate questions that might be asked and make sure you can answer them. Gather statistics on possible treatments, and in the worst case, the estimated time that you might have left. You don’t have to go into deep detail, but you can start with the basic truth and share more as you feel led. One of my children wanted to know all of the information right up front. The other needed it fed in small bites. He needed to process what was given, then come back for more. I was so glad that I had prepared for both scenarios.

Second, I’d suggest you involve your kids in treating your animal. Our Yorkie did 10 weeks of chemo and was on a pill regime that required some organization. We bought a pill organizer that had AM and PM compartments. The kids were able to help with sorting pills {with me overseeing, of course}. It made them feel like they were a part of the treatment and gave an opportunity to talk about what the prescriptions were attempting to resolve. Open dialogue and conversation on a constant basis eased their fears bit by bit. It also let them know that no matter the outcome, we were committed to treating the cancer with every drug available. 

Finally, we made a “bucket list” for Butch. We listed all of the things that he loved and made a pact to try to do as many of those things as we could in the short time we had left with him. This included everything from rides in the car with the windows down to treats of sliced cheese! The kids led this effort, and we left it primarily up to them to create the list. They loved seeing Butch so excited and happy! I took photos to document the times and adventures – it made a sad time a little more upbeat.

Involvement, honesty, and emotional support are the keys to making this tough time a little easier. Unfortunately, our story did not have a happy ending, and we lost our dear Butch on March 7. But by involving our kids every step of the way, they knew that they made Butch’s final days the happiest of all of his days. In the end, I think we would all want to go out of this world that way, wouldn’t we?

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