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This guide applies to most children from nine-years-old through twelve-years-old. This is part four of a six part “Ages and Stages” Series available in the "Kids & Grief" section of our Pet Parents Resource Center.
This is a basic guide and is intended to help adults as they support children through pet loss and grief.
deal with grief differently than adults due to their age and stage of development, but they grieve just as deeply.
are unique and should be encouraged to grieve in their own, individual ways.
need to be provided with age appropriate knowledge and understanding about life and death, taught a variety of coping skills, and receive solid emotional support from family and friends.
When pets die, late school-aged children:
understand that death is irreversible and happens to everyone.
are curious and may ask questions that seem shocking and morbid to adults. For instance, they may ask about dismemberment of bodies during autopsies or express interest in body decomposition after burial.
are capable of sustaining intense periods of grief and can become preoccupied with a particular loss, particularly if they have feelings of abandonment or rejection from a previous loss.
are capable of, and often want to be involved in discussions and decisions about their pets’ end-of-life care, including euthanasia.
often cope well with loss and grieve normally and age appropriately when adults include and support them.
understand that “morbid curiosity” is normal at this age.
respond to children’s questions honestly and calmly, without making children feel guilty or wrong for asking.
allow and encourage children to deal with anxiety and curiosity by taking action, like viewing their pets’ bodies, visiting crematories, helping to dig their pets’ graves, or planning and participating in creating their pets’ memorials.
provide children with opportunities to talk about how they feel and answer their questions honestly and truthfully.
allow children to see adults expressing emotions in normal, healthy ways so children know it is okay for them to be sad, angry, etc., as well.
The amount of time children spend with their pets, as well as the emotional comfort they believe their pets provide, deepens the bonds between them. Children who think of their pets as “best friends” are often more attached than children who don’t think of their pets in this way.
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Find additional resources and related articles under Kids and Grief in the Veterinary Wisdom® Resource Center - Support for Pet Parents.
© 2013. World by the Tail, Inc. All rights reserved.
Laurel Lagoni is a nationally recognized veterinary grief expert and the former Director of the Argus Institute at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She is President of World by the Tail, Inc., and directs the Veterinary Wisdom® Resource Centers at www.veterinarywisdom.com