Posted on December 25, 2021 10:11 PM
Q: Our 10 year old dog was recently diagnosed with cancer. Our eight year old son is very close to the dog. How do we tell him his dog is dying? When the time comes, I think we should make sure our son isn’t around and then get another dog as soon as possible. My wife disagrees.
Don’t hide this from your son, the family projects panel is recommended.
“Death is part of life. Families used to hold funerals right at home. You cannot protect children from their feelings. If something happened to a relative, you wouldn’t, ”said panelist JoAnne Raftas.
“Children usually know when their pets are not doing well. I’m a big fan of answering questions the way children have, ”agreed panelist Mike Daniels.
“Honesty is the longest term. This is an opportunity to talk to your son about his feelings. Let him know that you will help your pet feel as comfortable as possible,” said Raftas.
“If you run away and get a new dog, he won’t have enough time to grieve. And it sends a message that everything is interchangeable, ”added panelist Denise Continenza.
Continenza recommended “The Tenth Good Thing about Barney,” a children’s book by Judith Viorst about a boy whose house cat dies.
“Don’t try to ignore the grief. The message you are sending is that the loss didn’t matter. And that’s not a message you want to convey. You want to acknowledge your son’s emotional state, ”said Raftas.
“Keep the child informed, as far as they can handle their age. Otherwise it is more of a shock when the dog dies, ”added panelist Pam Wallace.
“Use this to model what families do when someone dies,” suggested panelist Chad Stefanyak, adding, “Have a memorial service for the dog. Put the dog’s ashes in an urn. “
“It’s all part of the grieving process. He’ll let you know when he’s ready for a new pet, ”Daniels said.
If you need to euthanize the dog, let him participate when he is comfortable, the panelists recommended.
“If he wants to be there, he should stay as long as he can. It would be nice if this could be done at home, ”said Continenza.
“Leave it up to him what he wants to be a part of. Saying at the door while you take the dog to the vet can be harder, ”agreed Raftas.
This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a Valley Youth House program; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Joanne T. Raftas, Registered Game Therapist and Counselor, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist.
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The family project is a collaboration between the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and the project child of the Valley Youth House.
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