Most parents have often found themselves giving into their children’s desire of having a pet at home. Although the common pets are dogs or cats, some children prefer other pets like guinea-pig, chicken, rabbit; the list is endless.
Having a pet in a home gives children something to play with, something to care for, and something to love, especially in the case of an only child who does not have any siblings.
From experience, when a pet is first brought into a home, it is parents who usually have to attend to the needs of the pet, but eventually, with time, a child who has love for animals will learn and take up the responsibility. Having a pet teaches a child to have positive values such as the importance of being kind and gentle and making sure that the pet is fed.
Through such examples, a child will realise that pets, just like human beings, need shelter, food, love and friends; learning important values about empathy and compassion.
Research has also shown that a child with a pet usually has a higher self-esteem because of the unconditional love a child receives from the family pet to talk and play with when no one else is around. There has been cases of pets being very protective of the children depending on how it is taken care of.
Pets are good for everyone’s health
Experts say that children who have pets are less likely to develop common allergies thanks to early exposure to certain bacteria. (Of course, some children are genuinely allergic to animals — so check on that before you take the plunge.) And some research shows that pet owners tend to get sick less often — in fact, a 2012 study determined that children who lived with dogs were generally healthier during their first year of life, with fewer respiratory problems and less frequent ear infections than kids without canines. Another pro to pets? Brushing, patting or stroking a furry creature can lower stress levels — and that’s just as true for moms and dads as it is for kids.
Pets are part of many children’s lives. Parental involvement, open discussion, and planning are necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone. A child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and the child involved.
Choosing an appropriate pet
Pets are part of many children’s lives. Parental involvement, open discussion, and planning are necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone. A child who learns to care for an animal, and treats it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and the child involved.
Caring for a pet
Taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills. However, certain guidelines apply:
• Since very young children (under the age of 3-4 years) do not have the maturity to control their aggressive and angry impulses, they should be monitored with pets at all times.
• Young children (under 10 years) are unable to care for a large animal, a cat or a dog, on their own.
• Parents must oversee the pet’s care even if they believe their child is old enough to care for a pet.
• If children become lax in caring for a pet, parents may have to take over the responsibility on their own.
• Children should be reminded in a gentle, not scolding way, that animals, like people, need food, water, and exercise.
• If a child continues to neglect a pet, a new home may have to be found for the animal.
• Parents serve as role models. Children learn responsible pet ownership by observing their parents’ behavior.
Advantages of pet ownership
Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Pets can serve different purposes for children:
• They can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts–children often talk to their pets, like they do to their stuffed animals.
• They provide lessons about life, including reproduction, birth, illnesses, accidents, death, and bereavement.
• They can help develop responsible behavior in the children who care for them.
• They provide a connection to nature.
• They can teach respect for other living things.
Other physical and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include:
• Physical activity
• Comfort contact
• Love, loyalty, and affection
• Experience with loss if a pet is lost or dies.
Although most children are gentle and appropriate with pets, some may be overly rough or even abusive. If such behaviour persists, it may be a sign of significant emotional problems. Any child who abuses, tortures, or kills animals should be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a comprehensive evaluation.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
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