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How to talk to children about euthanasia

As parents, we may feel an enormous responsibility for protecting our children from any sort of pain. Therefore, the thought of exposing them to such devastating grief as a result of a decision we have to make to best care for our fur loved one can feel very overwhelming and conflicting.

Our brain and our heart will likely collide here. In truth, there is nothing we can do to protect our children from grief, but we can prepare them best we can and support them best we can.

My personal experience suggests being as honest as possible, with consideration to their age. There are ages where children are more likely to self-blame, so we want to consider all aspects. I understand it’s tempting to leave out details and only give a little bit of information, but if the children ask questions, try to answer the best you can. Remember, unless you do this for a living, you are not expected to have all the answers. No one has all the answers anyway.

Children are often far more capable and resilient than we expect in times like these. Of course, we are going to worry about their grief as well as our own.

Planning is key. Ask them if they wish to be there on the day, explain the process to them, and be careful about the words you use. We don’t want them to fear going to sleep at night because ‘Fluffy was put to sleep’. There are many things children can do in preparation for that very sad day.

Nothing can take away the heartache, but being involved can be critical for some children to process what is actually happening. Otherwise, we can inadvertently invite confusion.

Ask your children what they would like their fur loved one’s final resting place to look like and try to accommodate when practical.

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