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General Pet Loss and Children’s Grief Overview: Helping Teens

April 23, 2015

Back to "Kids and Grief" in the Pet Parent Resource Center.

Print this article.

 

This guide applies to most children from 13-years-old through 17-years-old. This is part five 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.


In General

Teens:

  • 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.

Getting Specific
When pets die, teenagers:

  • are self-conscious and hyper-emotional.

  • can have frequent mood swings and contradictory thought processes.

  • want to be treated like adults one day, but reassured like younger children the next.

  • are devastated by a pet’s death one day, but say it’s “no big deal” the next day.

  • miss the cuddling and physical closeness that pets provide because they often feel awkward about being hugged or touched by other people

Helping Children
Adults can:

  • be cautious about overburdening teens with responsibilities. Teenagers are often asked to care for younger siblings, grandparents, and even household chores during a family loss or crisis. If this burden is prolonged, their own grief processes may be interrupted or delayed.

  • be careful about triggering feelings of rebelliousness by insisting that teens grieve in specific, “socially acceptable” ways or within certain time frames.

  • allow and encourage teenagers to view their pets’ bodies, visit crematories, help dig their pets’ graves, or plan and participate in creating their pets’ memorials.

  • provide teenagers with opportunities to talk about how they feel and answer their questions honestly and truthfully.

  • allow teens to see adults expressing emotions in normal, healthy ways so teens know it is also okay for them to cry, feel sad, express anger, etc..

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.

 

Click here to print this article.

 

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

 

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