How to Talk to Your Child about the Death of a Family Pet


We recently lost a neighborhood dog, but it wasn’t just any ole neighborhood dog. This dog was my little Lola’s favorite. We knew he was suffering and had lived a good, long life (I think he was 15 years old?!), so it wasn’t such a bad thing for him to go. The big question was, how are we going to explain to Lola that her best furry bud is gone?

It is hard on the whole family when you lose a precious pet, but how do you talk to your children about this loss? Knowing what to say and how to make sure the kids understand is crucial in moving forward. You want to know your children are okay and help them get through the grief of losing your pet.

Keep in mind that most of the time your child will look at your reactions and do what you do. It is natural to be sad and upset, and you need to let the children know that it is ok and normal to feel this way. Make sure to discuss this right away since the longer you wait the more questions and doubts your child may have.

If you have younger children, say 3-5 years old, their concept of death is that it is a temporary thing. Be honest with them that your pet is not coming back, and try to share some good memories you have together.

For kids ages 6-8, they understand the concept of death, but maybe find it hard to believe that your pet is truly gone. Children this age may feel like they could have done something to prevent your pet dying, so make sure to let them know it had nothing to do with them.

Older kids might want to know more information or ask more direct questions, so be prepared for this.
Every child may grieve differently, so just make yourself available to them if they need you.

One thing you don’t want to do is give them vague answers about what happened to your family pet. Kids’ imaginations can go wild and they need you to be direct and honest with them. You can be brief, but give them accurate information so they do understand. You don’t have to go into details that will disturb them, but let them know the truth.

The most important thing your child needs during this sad time is comfort. Grieve as a family but always hold those precious memories of your pet close to your heart.

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  1. For all of us pet lover’s out there who have lost a fur baby it is difficult enough for us to truly comprehend–how terribly hard it must be for a young child.

  2. We have lost several pets and our sons had a real hard time…and they were in their 20s. It is really difficult when a pet has been with you for so very many years. I agree with not giving small children vague answers. They need the truth.

  3. I can only imagine how hard something like this is to talk about with the kids. Great tips for such a hard talk.

  4. This is a sad but important topic. I had pets as a child, and being able to handle the grief (with help from my mom) was crucial!

  5. The unexpected death of our German Sheppard was very hard for my oldest son. From the moment he was born, the dog was his shadow. Every photo of him taken at home has the dog in it. It took him a long time to accept that his pal is really not coming back.

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