Savvy Parenting

Helping Your Children Understand Pet Illness: 3 Key Approaches

It’s crucial that our children learn how to understand illness in life. And many children will experience this for the first time when a pet becomes unwell. When a pet becomes unwell, many parents try to avoid anxiety and worry by hiding the issue. However, this can backfire. If children do not find out the information from you they will find it from someone else. This is why we have to help our children understand pet sickness. How can we do this? 


Honesty is always the best approach. If we try to use deception, no matter how well-intended it is, it can be hard to regain the trust of our child. If your children find out that you try to alter the truth, this is not going to end well. Ultimately, it depends on the nature of the illness. If a cat is unwell, it could very well be something minimal but our children can worry. If it’s something like a sinus infection, your child could be very concerned but it’s important to point out that there are many treatment options for a sinus infection in cats and even if the cat is unwell now, it won’t be like this forever. Honesty is always the best approach. 

Show Your Emotions

You need to encourage and respect your child’s needs to express themselves. Even if the cat is unwell, and you know they will be ok, this will not stop your child from worrying. This is where helping your children express themselves and understand the situation will be cathartic. If the situation is more severe, you may try to get one piece of information so you can give as much detail to your child as possible, but sometimes we have to remember that we don’t have all the answers. It’s not necessary for us to have every solution. 

Letting Children Express Grief in Their Own Way

If our pet is really unwell, and we aren’t sure what the outcome will be, our children can worry, but they could also prematurely react by grieving. If your pet is gravely unwell and taking them for surgery may not end well, you’ll have to be patient and supportive. You need to recognize that if your child is showing signs of grief, that they will process things differently. And it’s important for you to recognize that children can react to these situations with behaviors that you might deem unacceptable. Children can react to really terrible situations like death with aggressiveness, boisterousness, and even outbursts of laughter. However, you need to try to find the right balance. You shouldn’t reward inappropriate behavior, but also do what you can to maintain the same routines. But if you notice any prolonged adverse reactions, you may want to consider the support of a counselor. 

It’s not an easy thing to understand, but if we follow these key processes, it’s going to help everybody in the long run. Illness and death is not an easy thing for anyone to deal with, but it’s also important to remember that our children are very likely experiencing this for the first time. And we must act accordingly.

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