What do I tell my Children?
When talking with children about pet loss, it’s important to be careful with your word choices. Euphemisms like “going to be put to sleep” can confuse children and make them wonder what will happen the next time they have to “go to sleep.”
Obviously, the age of the child will determine at what level they understand what is going on. It can be helpful therefore to start with questions. Ask them if they understand what is happening to “Fluffy” or “Fido”. Ask them if they understand what it means to die and what will happen to their pet. It is important that children be considered and involved in the process as much as they and you feel comfortable.
For younger children (3-10) books about pet loss may be a helpful way to get started in the conversation. Here are some good titles.
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney: Judith Viorst
- “Jasper’s Day,” by Marjorie Blain Parker
- Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
Should my Child Come to the Euthanasia?
Children do not have any inherent fear of death and for many children pet-loss is their first experience with death. By explaining what is happening and involving them in the memorials (pictures, drawings etc), burial ceremony or other aspects can help them learn and accept death as a part of life.
Ultimately it is your decision whether your children are present or not. Being present at the euthanasia is certainly not the only way for them to participate or gain closure. But, if you are prepared to take them to the euthanasia ask them if they want to go or not.Your child should also have a say in their level of involvement.