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          When Your Child’s First Pet Dies

          October 01, 2003

          Instead of protecting your child from the truth, Dr. Phil suggests that parents be honest and allow the child to learn valuable life lessons from the experience.

          Allow your child to cope.
          The research is very clear: People who learn to cope with loss the best and the earliest live much longer than people who don’t. If you are well into your life before you are allowed to wrestle with something like this, you can be absolutely devastated. The death of a pet is an opportunity for a child to experience some valuable self-observation. The child will see that he/she can experience loss, grieve and get through it.

          Honor the loss.
          One thing that is very important is that you honor the dog’s loss by having some sort of funeral or memorial service. As silly as that may sound, it really is a marker, psychologically and emotionally, to lay it to rest and get closure — even if it’s a hamster or parakeet. It’s preparation. When a child loses someone and there is a funeral, they’ve had some practice and observed themselves getting through the experience. Have the service to honor the pet and let him or her know you value life. That then becomes part of his or her value system.


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