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Grief support: How to help your child with death of a pet

Grief support in the face of a pet death helps reassure your child as you navigate the topic.

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Grief support helps reassure kids after a pet death. Here, 2-year-old Leo (l.) and baby brother Andre watch with their mom Carrie Dirks Amodeo as veterinarian Elisabetta Coletti makes a house call to see Scrappy Daphne the cat – who is completly fine. She was just getting her toenails clipped Aug. 9, 2009.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

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The death of a pet can be a shock for young children who do not yet understand the concept of permanence the way older children or adults do.

There are things you can do to help guide your child, gently and lovingly through sadness, confusion and stress that accompany such an event.

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Tactile toddlers in particular will seek out extra cuddles and hugs, needing to be held for reassurance. The trick is to let them come to you and be aware that they may fluctuate between pushing you away to pulling you close. This physical expression is directly linked to their confusion about the situation. Sometimes a young child can transfer their confusion onto younger children or another pet, so make sure you at clear about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

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