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Maybe this isn't much of a debate but thought it might fit in with the weeks theme.
My girls are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 and we had to put our dog to sleep last week. She was 12 years old, had recently torn her ACL and then started to wither away quickly. The girls both knew she had an owie and had to be very careful around her and siad goodbye to her before my DH took her to the vet but now they keep asking where she's at. We've both told her that she's in Heaven and have left it at that but I'm not sure that they understand what that even means.
At what age do you fully explain death to a child?
It depends on the kid, and when they can really grasp what happened. My son is almost 3, and he noticed that our dog ran away, asked about him for a day, and that was it. So I really don't know how I would explain it to him.. because at his age/development he wouldn't get it.
When my daughter was 3, our dog had to be put to sleep and we told her that the doggie was sick and God took her to Heaven and she would see her again when she goes to Heaven. She took it well and seemed to understand.
But omg sweet yet sad story ahead.... when my friend passed away a few months after our dog, I was sitting on the couch crying and my Mom said "Mommy is sad because her friend went to Heaven" and Lily ran to the sliding glass door, pointed outside, and said "Oh my gosh mommy look! God just came down from Heaven with Chelsea (the dog we put to sleep) and took your friend to Heaven! He's okay Mommy, he's with God and Chelsea!" I don't think I ever gave her such a big hug as I did at that time.
Kids typically see a side of death that adults don't see. They are sad and upset, but they also seem to be more comforted by the fact that there is a Heaven (if the family believes in it) and God and tend to bounce back much quicker after the death of a pet or loved one than older people.
Maybe I'm the odd one out, but I explain age appropriately what happened. Julia's fish died b/c I stupidly put them in colder water than they were used to. When she asked what "dead" meant, I told her it meant their hearts weren't beating anymore, they couldn't think anymore, and they wouldn't grow anymore, and that everything died eventually. She said goodbye and that was that. My mom's dog died (DD's grandmother's dog), and she was really old - same thing, just explained that the dog was sick, and she died because her heart and organs stopped working correctly. None of that seemed to traumatize her, but rather made her more curious, which I think is a good thing. I think as long as parents aren't projecting their own hangups on death, it's a-ok.