How to Help a Child Deal with Giving Away a Pet

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As a parent, one of the hardest things you’ll have to deal with is the combination of a child’s sadness with them not fully grasping or understanding the situation. Death is of course the ultimate example, but giving away a pet can be challenging as well.

Here are 8 tips to help you through the difficult situation of having to give away a pet to a new home.

1. Maintain Open and Honest Communication

If I’ve learned anything from having young boys, is that it’s they are observant and persistent. Thus, they can easily pick-up un the whispers, looks, and anything else you think you’re sneakily doing to communicate with your significant other—and they won’t stop hounding you for answers until they have answers.

So, my advice is to simply start by having an open (age-appropriate) conversation with your child. Explain the reasons for rehoming your pet in a way they can understand. Try and avoid complex reasons and creating a scenario you don’t think they’ll question. Again, they’re smart—keep it simple and straightforward.

2. Involve Them in the Process

With a conversation, you’re naturally involving kids in the process, which is the next tip. Beyond the talk, though, bring your child into the process of finding a new home for the pet. This could include looking at potential new homes together or even meeting the new family. This involvement can help provide closure and reassure your child that the pet is going to a good place.

Without some concrete and tangible visual to hang on to, kids might be left to imagine the worst.

3. Create a Memory Book

Creating a memory book of your pet complete with photos, drawings, and stories could be therapeutic in the moment and could help ease any issues that might come up in the future.

This activity not only serves as an outlet for kids’ emotions but also creates a lasting keepsake to remember their furry friend.

4. Carry Out a Proper Farewell

Having a proper goodbye can provide a sense of closure. This could be a small backyard party, writing a letter to the pet, or simply spending a last day together doing your pet’s favorite activities.

The last thing you’ll probably want to do is have your kid come back from school to an empty house and the realization that their pet is gone forever and they didn’t get to say good bye.

5. Validate Their Feelings

Remember, everything at a young age is new and different. Children often need validation of their feelings. What is going on and is this what I am supposed to be feeling?

Let them know it’s normal to miss their pet and feel sad about the goodbye. Share your feelings too—this shows them they’re not alone in their emotions.

There are many children’s books that deal with pet separation. Reading these stories together can help your child understand and process their feelings.

6. Monitor Their Adjustment

Perhaps the biggest test comes after the pet has left your home—how is your child coping? Some children may seem to bounce back quickly in a couple of days, while others may take longer.

If there is prolonged sadness, be available to talk and listen. There might be something unsettled or a question kids still don’t have the answer to.

Try to maintain your child’s routine to provide a sense of normalcy. Consistent routines can be comforting during times of change and loss.

7. Be Mindful of Future Pet Ownership Talk

Meaning, as parents, it’s natural to want to quickly offer up a replacement in exchange for your child’s sadness. By all means, if appropriate, discuss the possibility of owning another pet in the future.

That said, I’d be cautious about even mentioning replacing the pet too quickly. One, it’s important to fully process the loss before moving on. And two, the last thing you want to do is not fulfill the thing you’re floating out there to turn their sadness to happiness.

8. Foster Resilience

Lastly, use this experience as an opportunity to teach resilience to your child. Discuss the idea that life is full of curve balls, and the importance of adapting to changes and finding strength in difficult situations.

All said, letting go of a pet is never easy, especially for a child. By providing support, understanding, and love, you can help your child navigate this challenging experience. Remember, it’s not just about saying goodbye to a pet, but about the lessons of love, loss, and resilience that come with it.

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Ryan created What We Search to help parents find better answers for the many questions they might have about all things kids, food, life, and more.