Here’s the situation: Your child wants a pet. But, should you get them one? Having a pet in the home can be one way of teaching your kids responsibility.
Kids like cute things and many pets are cute. It shouldn’t surprise you when they ask for one. You might get a request for a cat, dog, rabbit, horse, iguana, lizard, turtle or other animal. Your first reaction might be to say no, but instead, consider how it may impact your child if they had the experience of owning a pet.
Choose a pet that is age appropriate. Small children are not mature enough to learn to take care of a puppy, for example. You will end up doing most of the work. Instead, find a pet that can keep their interest while they learn about their pet and develop the responsibility to care for it.
Know the benefits of kids and pets. Kids can learn to care for something other than themselves. Pets teach selflessness and empathy. Kids learn to put the needs of something else over their own.
Pets also teach social behavior. For many kids, pets are their first friends. Also, a pet can help them make more friends by interacting with others who own pets. It’s a win-win situation for kids and parents as long as you can take on the responsibility of teaching your kid to care for their pet. It takes patience but it will be worth it in the long run.
Where Do I Start?
Here are a few ways to help your kids get started.
- Take a class – Local community centers, pet stores and animal shelters may hold classes to help others learn how to care for pets. This is useful before you buy the pet to gauge your child’s interest in certain pets.
- Visit pet stores – Let kids see pets and hold them. Some kids like the idea of pets but not the thought of handling them. For those kids, starting with a pet that they can’t touch like fish might be a better choice.
- Show them what to do – Before kids can learn to care for their pets, they need to see what it involved. If you have fish, show them how to feed the fish, clean the aquarium and change the water. It may take several times (especially if you have small kids) but they will catch on.
- Discuss the consequences of not caring for them – When they forget to feed or clean the cages, discuss what will happen: odor, germs and more of a mess than you originally would have had.
- Be the backup – Watch your child care for their pets, but know that you are there to back them up in case they forget to do anything.
Children can learn to care for pets at any age. Start with animals that don’t need much care and graduate up as your kid demonstrates maturity, responsibility and interest.