Do I Tell My Kids About the Death of a Pet?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: My kids have been visiting my sister and while they were gone I ran over our pet tortoise, I am sickened by this and don’t know if I should tell them or not. Is it too much for them to think about they are 9 and 11? I don’t think I can lie to them and just say he ran away. Help please they come home today!

A: Please don’t miss this opportunity to help your children understand the circle of life. I assure you, they have already talked about death with their friends. Kids tend to ask the big questions and to talk about things that are much deeper than adults give them credit for. Teaching our kids about death and the rituals we use to help those left behind manage it is an important obligation of parents. Do have a tortoise “wake” where you talk about your memories, cry and laugh. Have a burial. Memorialize him in whatever way you feel comfortable. Pet funerals can be a deeply meaningful event for kids, both as a way to cope with the loss of the pet and as a way to learn how to grieve when they inevitably lose a person they love.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Do I Tell My Kids About the Death of a Pet?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/29/do-i-tell-my-kids-about-the-death-of-a-pet/