I’ll never forget, even as a very little girl, the way my dogs would run circles around the house non-stop when we returned from the store, a trip or preschool. They made me feel so good! I’d laugh and just feel good inside knowing how much they loved me and I loved them. I learned how to care for them and feed them. I felt empathy for them when they were sick. And they got me outside everyday to walk them and play with them. Family pets can teach children a lot about themselves, caring for others and even dealing with loss and death.
Caring for pets:
- Encourages positive self-esteem: Pets are loyal, cuddly, love affection and adore their owners.
- Teaches children to be respectful: Animals have feelings too. Sometimes they are sad, tired, excited, happy, angry, scared, nervous, hungry, thirsty… Children learn to be respectful of their feelings giving them space when needed, playtime when ready, food when hungry… Children learn what their pets like and what their pets don’t like.
- Encourages empathy & compassion: Pets give children a real living being to care for. They are used to others tending to all their needs, so caring for the family pet opens up a whole new perspective. Feeding, grooming, petting, walking…
- Helps children develop a conscience: If a child pulls on a tail or forgets to feed the pet they learn they’ve made a mistake that needs to be corrected.
- Teaches children about unconditional love: Pets love us no matter what. And we love them no matter what.
- Helps children learn about their own feelings: Raising pets naturally brings up conversations about the feelings pets have and help children talk about how they feel too.
- Teaches children to interpret and understand non-verbal cues: Animals can’t talk but they can let you know if they are angry, uncomfortable, hungry, ready to play… Learning how to be sensitive to non-verbal cues from pets helps children learn to interpret non-verbal cues in other children and adults too.
- Develops competence, confidence, responsibility, self-esteem: Pets need a responsible owner. Children learn to keep the animals fed and water bowls full. They learn animals need exercise, need to come inside when it’s too cold or wet, need attention and love, need someone to take them to the vet… Children learn how to help sick pets and deal with declining health and the special needs associated with it.
- Helps children learn how to deal with death and loss: Animals don’t live forever. Death is a difficult concept for children to understand and accept. They often think it is temporary or can be wished back away. Dealing with the death of a pet when we are children helps us develop and understanding of death, the grieving process and that even with death our memories and our love never fade.
Pick the pet that’s right for your family
- Don’t jump into pet ownership of any kind without thinking it through carefully. Pets purchased impulsively often end up in a shelter.
- Dogs need lots of exercise, one on one care, socializing and cannot be left alone for very long.
- Cats can be kept inside and as long as they have food, water and a litter box, they can take care of themselves for a couple of days.
- Hamsters and gerbils tend to bite.
- Reptiles aren’t very cuddly and usually have to live in a cage.
- Instead of buying visit shelters. There are lots of wonderful pets just waiting for a home and someone to love.