This is a partnered post.
We’ve heard it all before – the pleadings of our kids, desperate for a dog, hamster, cat, chinchilla, budgie… anything! The promises that they’ll feed it and wash it and take it for walks, when there’s a very real concern that you’ll end up doing all the hard work. But pets can provide valuable life experience and have a beneficial effect of children’s development as they grow up. Below, you’ll find some benefits pets can give your kids, as well as signs to look out for to demonstrate they’re really ready for the responsibility.
Pets often develop particularly strong bonds with children in a family, and the children gain cognitive and social skills from these interactions as they play with, talk to and sometimes even read to the pets in the household. Only children, those who are lonely or having difficulties at school, or children experiencing sibling rivalry can all experience great benefits from pet ownership. The pet is non-judgemental and can listen to your child’s troubles without consequence, giving them the feeling that they’ve been heard and understood. In providing a child with a safe space they can vent their fears and frustrations, it means that it’s less likely for a child to express those in anger or upset to other children and risk becoming a bully.
If you are hearing the promises about looking after pets without fail, then it may be worth fostering or borrowing a pet initially to give your kids the experience of pet ownership without the commitment. Although the hand-on-heart vows that they will get up each morning to walk, clean, feed and otherwise care for the pet are sincere, when the harsh reality of a daily 6.30am wake-up for a walk sets in, those promises might fade away. Read some success stories of parents introducing pets into the family home and remember that whatever you choose to get should be a family responsibility. This means that, although you shouldn’t be the sole pet caregiver, neither should your kid. It’s about sharing both the chores and the enjoyment of adding a pet to your household.
Different pets obviously have different responsibilities. Although your kids might be clamouring for a puppy, when they look at the hard work and fragile nature of puppies, they might reconsider. There are plenty of older dogs who could be a better fit, especially if you have a young family. If your kids range in age, then talk to them and have a family research afternoon. Understanding what any pet needs is a key part of ownership. Can they look into natural dog food? Do your kids understand how to litter train a kitten? What are the differences between dog breeds? Can they think about how a pet and a younger sibling might interact? Don’t underestimate how smart and engaged your kids can be in this activity.
There is so much to consider when bringing a pet into the family, and it’s always worth engaging your kids in the conversation before you make any big decisions – whether yes or no!