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Thread: How to break bad news to a child?

  1. #1
    Manliness Personified HumnHilghtFreel's Avatar
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    How to break bad news to a child?

    My girlfriend and I woke up this morning to find out that her cat had died, very suddenly. She has a 4 year old daughter, who LOVES the cat to death. We sent her off to school this morning and are dreading when she gets back and we have to tell her the cat is gone.

    Does anybody have any kind of tips or suggestions about how to go about delivering bad news to a young one? We're both young ourselves so dealing with this right now is all new.

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    GR8NESS WMR's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    At that age I wouldn't tell her the cat died. Would she even understand death?

    I think my parents told me that my cat had gone to live with his brothers at that age when my dad accidentally ran over him one morning.
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    GR8NESS WMR's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    oh yeah: and get her another cat immediately. 4 year olds will bounce back quick.
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap Irony View Post
    Calipari is not, nor has he ever been accused or "caught", cheating. He himself turned in one of his players (Camby) for dealing with an agent to get one Final Four overturned. The other is all on the NCAA and Rose. (IF Rose cheated.)
    "Cheering for Kentucky is like watching Star Wars and hoping Darth Vader chokes an ewok"


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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    I haven't had to deal with it too much, just a couple of times.

    Honesty. You have to temper it for her age, but don't try to fake her out.

    "Honey...Mr. Fluffles got very sick and died (or went to kitty heaven)" After she stops crying tell her that while it hurts her very badly, this is better for Mr. Fluffles so he isn't in pain.

    Spend lots of time holding her as she cries (assuming she does). Then share some happy memories for Mr Fluffles and, if you feel it appropriate, have the dreaded "cat funeral". While it seems hokey to parents its an important part of grieving IMO.

    Part of owning and caring for pets is understanding that we almost always out live them. Also you have to acknowledge that we, as humans, have to do what's right for the pet, not what feels good for us. Might as well introduce your GF's daughter to it now. Like I said, you have to temper things because she's 4 but mostly I'd be sensitive and gentle but straight up about what happened.

    After a little while (days or weeks, whatever you feel is best) ask her if she wants to go pick out another kitty. My guess is that she will.
    Last edited by Ltlabner; 01-26-2009 at 01:47 PM.
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    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    My kids have handled the deaths of our faithful old lab and our old cat very well. They were in the 4-6 age range; we just told them that each pet had gotten sick and died. Neither of them really understood that, so we explained that they just wouldn't be coming back. That part, they get. Yes, they got sad about it, but there is no way around that unless you went through some elaborate ruse about the cat going missing and not coming back.
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    We had the same thing with my five year old daughter when our dog died. We told her that our dog went to a very special place called heaven and we would see the dog one day soon. We tried to make it a not so sad thing but more of a happy thing that her dog that she loved so much was now in a very special place and very happy.
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    Member 15fan's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    Tell her the cat died. Let her ask a couple of questions (What does that mean? Why isn't she coming back? etc) and do your best to give her a couple of answers that she can understand.

    Then see if she wants some ice cream.

    Few things soothe wounds and dry tears as well as a scoop of ice cream.

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    Vampire Weekend @Bernie's camisadelgolf's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    I don't have much to add except that I would emphasize that she didn't do anything wrong and that it's not her fault and just a natural thing. At the ages of four and five, children tend to blame a lot of things, good or bad, on themselves.

  10. #9
    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    We've always just told them the pet died in terms that were appropriate for their age. I never just blew it off. I always gave them ample time for feeling sad and room for questions and talked for as long as they wanted to.

    About the only part I steered clear of when they were little was euthanasia. That gets complicated pretty quick.

    For the little critters (< cat), we have a little pet graveyard in one of of our flower beds. I'd get a little flat rock and let whoever's pet it was paint his name and picture on the rock. We use it as a little marker. I let the kids help me bury it and let them say whatever they want once we've buried it. Often times it was pretty touching. We've got quite the collection of rocks for gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, fish, frogs, etc.

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    Bread Gloves Razor Shines's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    I agree with everyone who says to tell her the truth in the most loving and gentle way possible.
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    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    "Speak the truth in love" seems to be some pretty good advice.
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    I still cry when I think about my dog

  14. #13
    Manliness Personified HumnHilghtFreel's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    Thanks all for the replies.

    She seems to be taking it all in pretty well. Still sad, but all things considered, she's being a trooper.

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    Quote Originally Posted by WilyMoROCKS View Post
    oh yeah: and get her another cat immediately. 4 year olds will bounce back quick.
    This is good advice for any age.

    When my cat died a few years ago, my wife, my other cat, and I spent a few miserable weeks moping around. Then we decided to try getting a new kitten. It was like someone flipped on a light switch the day I brought him home. Our other cat was visibly happier, and it helped my wife and I get past our grief.
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    Re: How to break bad news to a child?

    A lot of time kids will surprise you about how well they understand or handle things....sometimes much better than adults do. Honesty is always best, tempered for age as someone else had already mentioned.
    Glad to her she took it so well. Losing a pet is a painful thing for the entire family to go through.


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