Resources for Children

If you’re struggling with how to explain death to your child or need help guiding them through their grief, these resources can help.

For Children

How to Prepare Your Children For Your Pet’s Euthanasia Appointment

One of the most difficult experiences as a parent is to see your kids hurting and not being able to “fix” their sadness. The loss of a pet may be your child’s first experience with grief and loss. As difficult as it is, learning how to manage these difficult emotions in a healthy way is a life skill we believe that children should have. Our advice when talking with your children is to be honest with them and, if it is age appropriate, involve them in the decision-making process.

At Sacramento Valley Veterinary Services, we welcome having children present at the euthanasia appointment. We will talk them through the process and answer their questions, as well as give them the opportunity to leave the appointment if they feel uncomfortable or would like to be in their own space. 

We also recommend talking to your children about ways they would like to memorialize a pet. Some may want to have photos with their pet, some may want to write a letter or a poem about their pet. Some children would like to make a paw print impression of their pet’s paw. If you would like to make a paw print yourself, paw print kits are available at most craft stores. We are happy to help you make a paw print impression at the time of the appointment, though we recommend waiting until your pet is sedated to make the paw impression. Ink or clay paw prints are also available from the crematorium if owners elect either private or communal cremation.

Here are some things we recommend NOT doing or saying to your kids.

  • Do not send them to school or a relative’s house not knowing that they will come home to an empty pet bed.
  • Do not use the words “shot” or “sleep” when describing the euthanasia process. We do not want them to associate the permanence of death with these words. Alternative phrasing we use is “special medication” and “allow your pet to die peacefully.”

Children are generally capable of managing the emotions associated with loss better than we give them credit for. It’s important for your child to have the opportunity to engage with this process, which will prepare them to have a healthy relationship with these experiences and emotions throughout their lives.

Children’s Books That Address Death and Losing A Pet

Book recommendations for helping your children cope with death and feelings of grief. The links provided give more information about each book so you can buy it at your bookseller of choice or check it out at your local library.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
by Bryan Mellonie
Recommended age range: 3-6 years
When the death of a relative, a friend, or a pet happens or is about to happen, how can we help a child to understand? Lifetimes is a moving book for children of all ages, as well as parents, by explaining life and death in a sensitive, caring, beautiful way. This book tells us about beginnings, about endings, and about living in between. With large, wonderful illustrations, it tells about plants, about animals, about people, and it tells that dying is as much a part of living as being born.
The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye, by Jane Yolen
Recommended age range: 4-8 years
Tiger Rose's kitten days are long gone and she's grown too tired to stay, so she says her goodbyes to all the creatures and the joys of her natural world—from the scolding blue jay, to the dog and children she shares her home with. In a final vision, Tiger Rose takes one last leap into the blue sky and becomes one with all—the earth, the air, the sun—in what is perhaps one of the most reassuring books on death available for children.
Pet Loss and Children, by Cheri Barton Ross
Recommended age range: 4-8 years
Explaining the concept of death to a child is a very difficult, confusing, and uncomfortable experience for a parent, and it is a topic that is often first introduced through the loss of a pet. There is an undeniably special bond that develops between people and their pets, especially between animals and young children, and while the death of a pet can be devastating to an adult, children are often deeply affected by such a loss. The aim of this book is to provide a resource to help children cope with loss.
When A Pet Dies, by Fred Rogers
Recommended age range: 4-8 years
In this book, the affable star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood helps children share feelings of the loss of a pet while offering reassurance that grieving is a natural, healing thing to do.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages, by Leo Buscaglia PhD
Recommended age range: 4-10 years
This beloved classic from New York Times bestselling author Leo Buscaglia that has helped thousands of children and adults come to grips with life and death through a warm, wonderfully wise, and strikingly simple story about a leaf named Freddie. This story follows Freddie and his companions as they change with the passing seasons and the coming of winter, finally falling to the ground with winter's snow in an inspiring allegory for death, dying, grief, bereavement, the passage of time, and loss of a loved one.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst
Recommended age range: 6-10 years
This book tells the tale of a young boy whose beloved cat dies. Struggling with his grief, the boy isn’t interested in television or his favorite foods, he only wants to cry. To help him in his grief, his mother asks him to find ten good things to say about his cat for the funeral. After finding nine, the tenth good thing eludes him until his dad provides the answer while gardening. This story is a great opener for discussing the death of a pet and for understanding that grief is a necessary and natural process.
Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children
Recommended age range: All Ages
The death of a pet can cause enormous feelings of sorrow, guilt, and loneliness for children and adults alike, whether the end comes through old age, illness, sudden death, or euthanasia. Yet pet owners are often inhibited in their very real grief, even if the animal was considered a full-fledged family member, a child's favored playmate, or an elderly person's faithful companion. In this thoroughly researched and expertly written guide, the authors acknowledge and encourage such grief, and assert that pet owners must learn to cope with the death of an animal as they would with any significant loss—by expressing their feelings and coming to terms with their grief.
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing, by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
Recommended age range: All Ages
Affirming a pet owner's struggle with grief when their pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss. Included are practical suggestions for mourning and ideas for remembering and memorializing one's pet. Among the issues covered are understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet, understanding why grief for pets is unique, pet funerals and burial or cremation, celebrating and remembering the life of one's pet, coping with feelings about euthanasia, helping children understand the death of their pet, and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.
Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet, by Gary Kowalski
Recommended age range: All Ages
From the moment pets come into our lives, we know the day will arrive when we have to say farewell. Still, we are never emotionally prepared for the last goodbye. In this book, the author takes you on a journey of healing, offering warmth and sound advice on how to cope with the death of your pet. Filled with heartwarming stories and practical guidance on such matters as taking care of yourself while mourning, creating rituals to honor your pet's memory, and talking to children about death, Goodbye, Friend is a beautiful and comforting book for anyone grieving the loss of a beloved animal.
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