As adults, we recognize the needs of our aging furred family members, but for children it can be a different story. They often don’t understand why there is a difference in behavior or attitude from our pets and it’s therefore important to have the kind of heartfelt conversations with our children for explanation.
Dealing with an aging or dying pet is often the first introduction of the cycle of life that our children are exposed to. This can be difficult for them as they may not have experienced a loss and having a detailed dialogue with them is a priority. You will need to explain the aging process, why your pet may not be able to hear as well, run or jump as they did in their youth and what your kids can do to accommodate your aging pet’s needs.
Children Often Have an Unconditional Pet Bond
For anyone that has kids and pets, you see an incredible bond of sharing. Children are sometimes more intuitive to pets and they have gone through many of life’s hurtles together as they both grew up. Pets have been at their side when they laughed, cried, felt lost and alone or played with friends. They have been companions, confidantes and sometimes even partners in crime doing things they weren’t supposed to.
As pet parents we have our own relationship with our pets that encompass both love and the responsibility of caring for them. For kids it transcends into a realm of deeper friendship and it is our duty to talk to them about the next phases of our pet’s lives.
Physical and Emotional Needs
As your pet ages children may become confused as to why their behavior and actions are different. To assure that they understand you will need let them know that they will have to adjust their expectation levels. This can include recognition that walks will need to be slower and shorter, playtime may be less, and that their physical limitations may not allow your pet to run and jump as they once did.
Children can be incredibly accommodating and patient with a family pet, once they understand what is happening. However, there is a different set of steps that need to be taking on an emotional level if your pet is dying. There will never be any complete way to adapt to grief, and this is the hard conversation that you must have with your children to let them know that it is time to say goodbye.
One of the ways that pet parents can help their kids in adapting to an impending loss is to begin the process of honoring them. You can create a picture album using images of your pet’s life or even get memorial jewelry for you and your kids. Family participation is key to sharing the life that you have all spent with your furred loved one. Making sure that the emotional levels of your children are heard and felt is part of our adult responsibilities to both our kids and our beloved pets.