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How to Explain the Death of a Pet to a Young Child

images3V0AZ7N0For young children, a pet may be not only a beloved member of the family but a special playmate and a source of comfort and joy.

So when the day comes, as it inevitably will, how best to tell your child the pet has died?

“The death of a pet is often a child’s first experience with the life cycle,” says Jeannine Moga, a licensed clinical social worker who directs the Family and Community Services program at North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Health Complex. “This means it could be a valuable teaching opportunity.”

Moga says the first inclination of many parents is to protect their child from pain and soften the impact of the loss. They may usea euphemism such as “putting the dog to sleep” when discussing euthanasia or create an alternative story to why an animal is no longer present.

“What I usually recommend to parents is to make sure they are using clear and simple language when explaining the death of a pet,” says Moga. “The conversation should be age appropriate, but even the youngest child should be provided honest information about what death is and what it looks like.

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