We as adults tend to want to shield our children from the realities of a pet’s death. However, these experiences are central to building our children’s resilience.
Recently we lost our beloved pet bearded dragon, Raa. Like any learning, we can help guide our children through their loss. With such a valuable teachable moment we have chosen to discuss Raa’s death with the children.
Discussing the loss of a pet slowly builds an ability to cope with big emotions. A child’s brain does not have the mental maturity of adults and we need to help them build their skills and manage their feelings. These skills need to be taught and we specialise in social emotional learning at Kids College actively working each day to help children in one of the most important learning areas.
This is a hard topic for anyone to discuss, please feel free to stop by the office for a chat anytime. For more information on why we have pets and what children can learn from them please see our ‘Pets are good for children at Kids College Childcare centre.’
Rest in Peace
February 2015 – November 2020
Raa was very old and she has died.
She has gone to pet heaven
We are very sad that we can’t see Raa anymore.
It’s ok to be sad or mad.
We remember her happy smiley face as she enjoyed watching us all play and how she loved to dance to music.
We have said goodbye to Raa and still love her very much.
If you have any questions, please ask.
Losing a Pet — How to Help Your Toddler Deal With Death
You know all dogs go to heaven, but how do you comfort your toddler about the death of a pet? Here’s how to help your little one cope with the loss.
Losing a pet is hard for anyone, but it’s an especially difficult concept for a toddler to grasp. That can make it pretty hard for you to help your darling deal with the death of a pet. First of all, how do you break the news? It might seem easier to work up a little white lie (“Lulu ran away, but she’ll find her way back soon!”), but experts advise being honest and upfront with your children (so you don’t have to keep fibbing when Lulu never returns). Here’s what to say and do about losing a pet.
- Stick to the facts. Skip the TV-sitcom scenario (you know, the one in which the parents secretly replace the old pet with a look-alike), and instead give your child an age-appropriate explanation of what happened. Simply state the facts: Lulu was struck by a car, or had cancer and had to be euthanized, or died of old age. You don’t need to share the details, just tell your tot what she needs to know: “Lulu died. We’re very sad that we won’t see her anymore.” An older toddler or preschooler may want to know more, so you might explain that when animals get very old or very sick their bodies stop working. You could also read children’s books that help cope with losing a pet, such as Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant and I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm.
- Don’t use euphemisms like “put to sleep” or “went away.” Those terms can confuse or scare your little one. You certainly don’t want her to be afraid to sleep or leave the house — or imagine that you won’t wake up should you catch a nap. Explain gently, and repeatedly if necessary, that Lulu died and she’s not coming back.
- Encourage your tot to talk about her feelings. It’s okay to be sad or mad about the death of a pet, and make sure your child knows that. But don’t be surprised if your little one isn’t as upset as you are, especially if she’s very young. She’s probably not really grasping the concept of death or never being able to play with her pet again. Or she may not have the same emotional investment in your furry (or feathered) family member that you or your older child have.
- Say goodbye. If you’ve made the difficult decision to euthanize your pet, be honest. Consider it a teachable moment for talking about suffering (books can help here, too). Then let your little one say her good-byes, and make sure she understands that Lulu won’t be coming back home.
- Share your grief about the death of a pet. Learning how to deal with sad feelings is an important lesson for toddlers, so let her see that you’re sad. (After all, teaching your little one about compassion and empathy is one of the benefits of having a pet at all.) You can even cry a bit, but don’t lose control in front of her. If you feel the need to really weep, do so in private so she doesn’t get frightened on top of being sad.
- Memorialize her pet. Sometimes it’s helpful for a toddler to say good-bye after losing a pet, perhaps by holding a simple ceremony to honor her pet’s life or by drawing a picture. Encourage this — and help her remember good times with the family pet, either by looking at photos or telling stories about the pet’s antics.
- After losing a pet, take a break before getting a new one. Give your household time to grieve before bringing another animal into your lives. If and when you do decide to get another pet, let your tot know that it’s okay to still feel sad about the old one and be excited about her new four-legged friend.
One more thing to keep in mind when losing a pet: Expect all sorts of behaviour — toddlers tend to hate any kind of change, especially sudden ones. Your tot might act out, be extra cranky, or have trouble sleeping when her much-loved kitty or pooch dies. Or she might get super-clingy — after all, if a pet can die, so can the people she loves. Help her adjust by being extra patient and reassuring.
How Play School’s Little Ted is helping parents and kids talk about death and grief
By Siobhan Hegarty
From Mufasa in The Lion King to the loss of Bambi’s mother, death is never far from a children’s film.
Yet for many parents, figuring out the right time — and language — to explain the cycle of life can be extremely challenging, especially when it comes after a death that’s closer to home than the other side of a screen.
So, how do you talk to young kids about death?
In a special episode of Play School, airing Monday 19 August on ABC, Australia’s longest-running children’s program is tackling that very question.
The episode, Beginnings and Endings, explores the joys and sorrows that come with the various stages of life — from buying a puppy to the death of a grandparent.
It’s the first time in Play School’s 53-year history that the show will explicitly talk about death and grief with its preschool-aged audience.
Presenter Alex Papps talks personally about losing his grandmother in a special episode of Play School.(ABC)
Bryson Hall was senior producer of the episode, which follows Acknowledgement of Country as the second standalone special this year.
“Play School went in a slightly new direction in our last commission and we decided that we’re going to do five standalone specials,” he says.
“It’s been on the cards for a very long time, doing an episode like Beginnings and Endings. Play School has dealt with this stuff, but very indirectly, through stories. To be able to have a half-hour dedicated to [birth and death] meant it was a lot easier to explore the themes.”Mr Hall says the two presenters, Alex Papps and Emma Palmer, bring their personal stories to the episode.
“Emma’s pregnant throughout the whole episode, which is a very obvious reflection of beginnings, and Alex was able to talk personally about the loss of his grandmother,” he says.
Beginnings and Endings also celebrates the joyful parts of life, such as presenter Emma Palmer’s pregnancy.(ABC)
But it’s not just the Play School presenters sharing personal experiences.
In the episode, Little Ted’s goldfish Swish dies, and his friends gather around him for support.
“We made sure that they weren’t going around to ‘cheer him up’,” explains Mr Hall.
“That’s language you shouldn’t use, because it’s OK to be sad. [The friends] are just around there to be supportive of him, and let him grieve if he wants to, let him cry and just chat.”
Tips for talking to children about death
Key takeaways from Play School’s producers and early education experts:
- Keep your language clear, don’t use euphemisms like “they passed away”
- Talk about death before it happens in your family
- Let your children lead the conversations, ask them what they think has happened, rather than bombarding them with information
- Show your children it’s OK to be sad
- Kids can’t sit with “big feelings” for too long, so plan a fun activity for after your talk
- Keep memories alive — make a scrapbook about someone who died, visit their favourite place or cook a recipe they loved
Be open and honest about death
In preparation for this episode, the Play School team consulted with two bereavement counsellors, one of whom is Elizabeth Mann, clinical director of the National Centre for Childhood Grief.
“I totally understand why we want to protect our children [from death],” says Dr Mann, who sees kids aged from three to 18 who’ve had someone close to them die.
“We wish we could wrap them up in cotton wool and not have to deal with some of these more serious issues of life, but … death and grief are going to be part of their experience.
“We can model to them when they’re really young that it is actually OK … it’s a sad topic, but it’s not taboo.”
Dr Elizabeth Mann says there are resources and services available for families dealing with grief.(ABC Life: Siobhan Hegarty)
Dr Mann advises parents to speak openly and honestly.
“They don’t understand the permanency of death — that it’s forever — so using clear language with little children is really important,” she says.
This means avoiding euphemisms like, “They passed away”, “We’ve lost her” or “He’s watching over us”.
While these sentiments make sense to us as adults, Mr Hall says they often spark more questions for kids.
“Children will ask repeatedly the same question. If there’s any skerrick of doubt about, ‘What does that mean: they’re watching over me?’ they’ll ask again,” he explains.
“If something doesn’t match up, they’ll be confused.”
Even if you use clear language, questions might come up days, weeks or even months later, and conversations will usually need to be revisited.
That’s why Laura Stone, early childhood producer for the ABC’s Children’s department, recommends laying the groundwork before there’s a death in your family.
Producers Bryson Hall and Laura Stone say the program will help parents tackle tough questions from young children.(ABC Life: Siobhan Hegarty)
“Start from a place of shared truth and being led by the child as much as you can,” she says.
“You know, asking them where their knowledge is at and what they think happened. [That way] you’re not bombarding children with anything unnecessary.”
What happens for children when a death occurs?
We highly recommend Maggie Dent’s article ‘Death through the eyes of a child”.
Death hurts. When we lose someone or something we love, every level of us hurts and is affected. There is nothing that can prepare us for exactly what happens when a sudden loss occurs because every single person responds differently. There is simply no one right way to respond. What happens for children when a death occurs? How can you support them through the anguish and confusion? What can you do to prepare them in some way for this experience well before it happens? One thing you cannot do, no matter how much you wish you could, is take their pain away.
For the entire article please follow the link below.
How Kids College teaches lifecycles
We have had silkworms at Kids College so the children can see how lifecycles work and are beginning to understand that the eggs hatch, the silkworm grows up, goes into a cocoon to transform into a silk moth and then dies.
We show the children lifecycles when we grow flowers, veggies and herbs. We even have our own worm farm. We regularly have the animal farm visit us. Teacher Vera brought her guinea pigs to visit and we even got to see stick insects last year. One of our favourite incursions is when we get the little chicken eggs hatching program.
We have a very large underwater world at Kids College. Our fish tank allows the children to watch the tiny fish being born and how big they grow. We also have snails so the children can watch how the snails clean the tank.
National Quality Standards
1.2.1 Intentional Teaching. Educators are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful in their decisions and actions.
‘We aim to enhance the children’s understanding of the world around them through a developmentally appropriate program of activities rich with opportunities and information to spark a child’s imagination and curiosity.’
‘We aim to support children’s overall sense of wellbeing and increase their emotional intelligence through the love and dedication each of their own unique learning journeys.’
KIDS COLLEGE FAMILY
At Kids College Childcare we work each day embedding our values and philosophy into each facet of what we do. We continually improve our practices by critically reflecting and engaging in meaningful relationships with our community and for this we need your support and input.
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With love, laughter and learning from your friends in the
‘village it takes to raise a child’
Teacher Jen and the Kids College Childcare family