Bringing Home a Pet: The Benefits for Children
So your kid has been pestering you to bring home a pet and you’re not sure what to do. Perhaps your kid has promised to shoulder all the responsibilities related to the new pet but you’re worried that your kid may grow out of love with the pet.
Even if you are ready to take on all the pet-related chores single-handedly, you wouldn’t want your child to neglect the pet. It is important for your child to realize that the pet you brought home is a living being and cannot be disposed off like a toy that has become uninteresting.
Don’t let this possibility discourage you from adopting a pet dog or cat. Here’s why pets are actually good for kids and how you can teach kids to value them.
How Pets Can Help Your Child
Pets can bring their owners immense joy. Apart from being cute and cuddly, pets can help kids in many ways.
- Pets can teach kids what responsibility is. Sure, you can’t let your child alone with a new pet initially, but you can supervise their activities together. Allow your kid to pour water or scoop out food for your pet. Your kid will learn that your pet needs food and water just as he does and that he is the one your pet counts on for its basic needs.
- Pets such as dogs can help your kids get active from an early age and introduce them to the benefits of daily physical exercise. Dogs need to be exercised regularly not only to keep them fit but to keep them from resorting to destructive behavior too. Again, your little one might not be able to take your dog out on long or brisk walks. Have your kid practice walking your dog on a leash for short distances. Your child will learn that it is important for him to take care of his pet’s health and his own health too.
- Children who grow up with pets are exposed to certain bacteria early on. This makes them immune to developing common allergies later on in life.
- Pets also boost self-esteem in kids and grownups. Pets are non-judgmental and love their owners irrespective of their shortcomings.
- Research shows that pets help lower stress levels so you can be sure that with a pet at home, your child is going to be one happy person.
How to Teach Kids to Get Along with Pets
No matter what pet you bring home, it needs to be treated like a member of the family. Explain to your kid that it is important to read and understand pet cues for his and the pet’s safety.
- Teach kids to approach pets like cats and dogs while calling their name softly. Kids must never attempt to snatch toys or food from them. Teach your kid to watch out for signs such as hissing, growling, or hunching down in cats, and signs like lowered ears and tail, and low growls in dogs.
- While cats and dogs get aggressive only when eating or being protective about their toys, certain animals such as lizards, ferrets, hedgehogs, etc. can get aggressive easily. These animals can also become injured if not handled properly which can cause them to retaliate, hurting your kid in the process.
- You can educate your child about the animal he wants by reading books with him before you bring the pet home. Have your child accompany you when you take the pet to the vet.
- Involve your kid when you groom the pet or clean its cage. You may not want your kid to handle scissors or nail cutters. Allow your kid to brush his new furry friend’s coat using harmless dog grooming accessories like brushes.
How to Teach Kids to Refrain from Violence
If you see your kid mistreating the pet in any way- sitting on it, pulling its ears or tail, or hurting it, stop him immediately. As a parent, you must also look out for warning signs by the pet which if ignored, can lead to the pet hurting your child.
Never resort to hitting your child to teach him that he shouldn’t hurt animals. This will make him feel that it is okay to inflict pain on others. Children around 5 years understand what pain is; explain that animals feel pain too. Younger kids may not be able to stop themselves so it is up to you to keep both your kid and your pet safe. Either keep them away from each other or always supervise all their interactions.
Your attitude towards your pet will influence your kid’s behavior towards it too. If your child sees you being continually frustrated or angry with the new member, he will harbor the same feelings. If there is a behavioral problem with your pet, get it sorted out by training it so you can feel the joy of having a pet in the house and teach your kid to love it too.
If you go about teaching your kid the right ways to treat the new pet and imbibing good values such as respect, care, and love, your kid is sure to cherish his relationship with his new friend for a long time.
You may need to put in time and effort to make sure all is going to well between your child and his pet. But the hard work you put in will definitely pay off.