How To Talk About Pet Loss With Your Child

When I first graduated from college I worked as a nanny for a psychologist. One day she shared with me that their family goldfish had died. We schemed for nearly 20 minutes of what we would say to her daughter, as this was her first experience with death, and we thought it could be an excellent teaching moment.

We pulled her away from her playing to explain that the fish had died. We told her we could help her have a funeral if she wanted, and we could find a box (casket) to bury the fish so she could say her goodbyes. We went into detail about what a casket was and what a funeral was in minute detail. After our monologue we stopped and asked if she had any questions, after a slight pause she asked “Can’t we just flush it?”

Keeping Things Simple

This was a lesson that I use to this day to keep things simple, and to be where your audience is. Sometimes as parents we try to overcompensate for our own fears and make situations more challenging than they need to be. I have included some tips of how to talk to your children about pet loss.

Developmental Understandings of Death

Two- and three-year olds:

Four-, five-, and six-year olds:

Seven-, eight-, and nine-year olds

Adolescents

Some Resources …