Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 17th 2016 Contents 16 WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 17, 2016
| FAMILY |
A WEEK AGO, I made the agonising decision to
put one of my dogs to sleep. A lovely little girl
called Beauty, who had been rallying for 3 weeks
after an accident, but when she developed com-
plications I decided to let her go.
But during that period my daughter cared for her,
hand-feeding her and cleaning her up. When she
was hospitalised, we trooped in every afternoon
after school to pet her, whisper her name, and let
her know we loved her. And when she was gone,
perhaps I sobbed more than my children did, but
through my tears I realise what an important les-
son it all was for them.
Children need pets. There is something about
caring for a creature that's dependent on you that
teaches a set of life skills that can't help but
translate into their wider life, both now and into
adulthood: compassion, empathy, responsibility,
common sense, and discipline. But when the time
comes to say goodbye, there are pitfalls to be
avoided, and opportunities for growth. Here are
You may think you're being kind, but telling
your child that thier pet ran away will
only lead to agonising hours wonder-
ing how bad they are that the pet
they loved could run away from
them; where he is; if he's cold, wet,
and hungry; and so on.
Think you can get away with
telling them their pet went to live
on a farm? Do you really want to
spend the next several months
finding excuses why you can't
go visit? Furthermore, if they
find out you lied, they're un-
likely to trust you again soon.
Don't use the sleep
Don't tell your child their
pet went to sleep and
didn't wake up...unless
you enjoy calming
night terrors or
yelling at a kid to
get back into
bed at eleven
When I was a child, my grandmother made me
say the prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep"
every night. The line that terrified me was, "And if
I die before I wake..."
What? You can die in your SLEEP? If it can hap-
pen to their cat, they're sure to reason that it can
happen to them. Boom. Sleepless nights ahead.
Be honest but age appropriate
I think kids get a concept of death pretty early on,
and it's best for them if you simply explained that
their pet was old, injured or ill, and simply died.
In the case of euthanasia, though, try to assess
whether your child is capable of understanding
the concept of killing out of mercy. If you think the
child is old enough, explain that the process is
fast, painless, and spares their pet the alternative
of dying in slow agony. The last time I had a pet
put down my kids would have been about 5 and
7, a little young in my estimation. I chose to sim-
ply tell them their dog had died peacefully, rather
than have them think, Mummy murdered Tabby!
Don't offer an immediate replacement
It might seem a good idea to mask the hurt by
saying, "Fluffy's dead, so let's get a new kitty!", but
it isn't. Sure, kids are distracted by new animals,
and it would probably put a smile on their face,
but it also teaches them that love is disposable
and can be easily replaced. It's not a leap for your
child to think, if I die, Mummy will just get a new
Don't hide your own sadness. Let them know
that grief is an appropriate response. Help them
acknowledge their grief, work through their pain.
Hold a funeral or memorial service. Tell anecdotes
about their pet, look at photos, maybe create
some artwork depicting happier times. And when
the time is right, a new pet --- a new friend, not a
replacement for an old one --- will be a happy ad-
dition to their family.
What happens after death?
Losing a pet is training for the inevitable time
when they will one day experience the loss of a
family member or other loved one. Often, they
will try to grasp the situation by asking what hap-
pens when an animal --- or a person --- dies. Your
response should depend on your family's beliefs,
but it's also just fine to say, "I don't know."
I have to admit I've brought up the idea of Rain-
bow Bridge, a mythical place where pets are be-
lieved to go when they die, to frolic for eternity in
green pastures, maybe even waiting to see us
again. My kids like the idea, I like the idea, and be-
tween you and me, it just might exist.
Don't tell your child their pet
went to sleep and didn't
wake up...unless you enjoy
calming night terrors or
yelling at a kid to get back
into bed at eleven at night.
By Roslyn Carrington
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