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Talking to Kids about Pet Euthanasia

euthanasia blogThe decision to euthanize a pet is hard enough, but having to also explain this decision to your kids can be downright agonizing. Below are five tips to keep in mind during this very difficult time:

Be honest: Kids are capable of understanding a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for, so be honest. Explain that your pet is sick and suffering, and that the vet can gently put an end to that suffering. Of course, the level of medical detail you choose to go into greatly depends on age, so use your best judgement.

Assure them that this is the right decision: Make it perfectly clear that it’s normal for everyone in your family to feel sad, but no one should feel guilty. The decision to euthanize is made out of love and compassion.

Give them the opportunity to say goodbye: Actually being in the room when a pet is euthanized can be very difficult for children to process, and many veterinarians recommend ‘adults only’ during these final moments. However, it is important to give kids one last positive memory. Let your child pet or cuddle your pet before leaving for the appointment. This closure can be healing.

Don’t be afraid to show your own sadness: The grieving process is natural and dealing with your own sadness in a healthy way sets a good example for your kids. Encourage your kids to talk openly about their feelings if they want to.

Do something positive: Spend some time as a family reflecting on the good memories with your pet. Also, consider doing something positive in his or her memory. Did you adopt your pet from a shelter? Maybe make a small donation to that organization or volunteer as a family. Include your kids in the discussion about why you’re doing this.

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