If you don’t already have a family pet, your child has most likely expressed interest in having one. While an animal companion can be a perfect addition to any family, you must make sure the timing is right. Additionally, many parents allow a child to select a pet, with hopes of teaching responsibility, yet it’s still important to add a pet to your home only if you have the time and resources.
When is it the Right Time to Introduce a Pet?
Although the look on your child’s face, when he or she sees a cat or dog, may be priceless, you shouldn’t base a major family decision on “wants” alone. If you are a busy family, like many families, and aren’t home for the majority of the day, you should be careful about the type of animal you choose. While many families have a desire for dogs and cats, they need more attention throughout the day than animals like goldfish or hamsters.
While it’s not fair to call any animal a “starter” pet, there are some animals that may be easier to care for and are more suitable for younger children. Although some experts argue that no child, under the age of five, should be responsible for a pet, others agree that small animals like goldfish are perfect animal companions to start teaching responsibility.
If you already have dogs or cats in your home, it’s never too early to teach your child how to care for an animal. If you have younger children, never leave your child unattended with your beloved car or dog as a biting incident may occur. Younger children may not always know what’s appropriate or respectful behavior and it’s natural, for even the nicest of pets, to react negatively to pulling of fur or tails.
What Pets Can Teach Your Child
Whether your family has an aquarium full of fish, a parakeet, a guinea pig or a dog, your child can learn how to be respectful and responsible. By allowing your child to be part of the daily routine of feeding, watering, exercising, and cleaning up after the pet, he or she will understand that caring for a pet is more work than just having some fun when he or she wants.
In addition to teaching about being responsible for “life essentials” like food, family pets may also teach your child:
- Compassion: Children of all ages should learn about and be reminded of compassion. Caring for a family pet allows children to look beyond themselves and focusing on the needs and well-being of the pet.
- Self-Esteem: When children have responsibilities, their self-esteem can blossom. Knowing that they are excelling at feeding the cat, walking the dog, or cleaning out the gerbil’s cage, can encourage them to continue to take pride in what they do.
- Get Active: Living and caring for an animal is a perfect way to get active. Encourage children to spend more time with the family pet than watching tv or engaging in “screen time”. Whether they’re walking the dog around the block or tossing a cat toy around the living room, your child is getting active.
- Learning About Loss: Anyone who has ever had a pet knows how difficult it is to lose a beloved animal. While it’s never easy to see your child in pain, but he or she will also learn how to remember the good memories and how to cope with a significant loss.
Choose a family pet that everyone can enjoy and engage in responsibility. If your child really wants a snake, but you are terrified, wait until you know they are old enough to take for all responsibilities.