Q: We had to give one of our dogs to another family because we’re moving, and my daughter is not handling it very well. What should I do? She is 9.
A: Losing a pet, for any reason, is often hard for kids. Pets become part of the family, so expect your daughter to go through a grieving process. Anger, tears, irritability, sadness…any of these might show up, so be patient as she works through them.
If your daughter is one who likes to talk at bedtime, hang out with her a little longer than usual. Even if neither of you says anything, your presence can be comforting. Share your feelings, but chances are there isn’t anything you can say that will change the situation, so let her do most of the talking. Also, take her lead on discussing the possibility of a new pet in the future. Be cautious not to convey the message that her pet is easily replaceable, and don’t make promises you might not be able to keep.
Will the new family send pictures? Your daughter might not want to see them right away, but it’s helpful to have them if this changes. Pictures also help hold onto good memories, so try putting together a photo album or scrapbook of the pet if it’s something she would enjoy. Working with her on the project provides another opportunity for her to talk to you about whatever’s on her mind.
As she adjusts to life without her pet, keep her busy. If you can make it work, trying letting her spend some extra time with friends or family. Having fun is a great way to keep her mind off feeling sad.
Deb Fuller is a mental health therapist with Real Life Counseling in Omaha.