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Kids React Differently When a Beloved Pet Dies
Some want a new animal right away, while others feel they need to honor the memory

By Robert Preidt

FRIDAY, Nov. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Losing a pet isn't easy -- no matter what your age. But, children respond to the death of a pet in a number of different ways, research shows.

While this is a common occurrence, "how children understand death in these moments, and the ideas, feelings and responses they have when their pets die are largely ignored topics," said Joshua Russell, an assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation at Canisius College, in Buffalo, N.Y.

His interviews with children aged 6 to 13 whose pets had died revealed that youngsters regard pets as more than just animals.

"They often see themselves as the center of their pets' affections. They describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections," Russell said in a college news release.

He also discovered that children "have a distinct sense of existential fairness around whether or not an animal lived until an appropriate age."

For example, the children said a short lifespan is normal for pets such as fish and hamsters but not for dogs, cats or rabbits.

"Children whose pets lived the extent of their potential lifetimes -- or beyond -- expressed acceptance upon their deaths," while they described the unexpected death of a pet as "emotionally and morally unfair, and had a much more difficult time reconciling the loss," Russell said.

He also found that the children believed euthanasia "was the moral thing to do when a pet is suffering."

In all the cases, family and friends helped the children cope with the loss of their pets through discussions and family rituals.

The children had different views on whether a new pet would ease their grief.

"There were those who felt it would be wrong to move on to a new pet because they had to honor their relationships with the deceased one, while others "explicitly linked getting a new pet with feeling better," Russell said.

"They explained it as an opportunity to start over and suggested that replacing a companion animal is more about beginning a new relationship than erasing memories of an old one."

More information

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explains how to talk to children about the death of a pet.

SOURCE: Canisius College, news release, Oct. 19, 2016

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=716089

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
Death
Emotions
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Behavior, Animal
The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
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