This is a guest post by author Pamela Foland
Many children start asking for a pet at a very early age. Parents play an important role in teaching children the correct way to interact and care for pets. If introduced to the care of a pet in the proper way, pets can teach children a number of valuable skills. Today, I’m going to cover the top five skills: responsibility, patience, trust/respect, compassion, and self-esteem.
Responsibility: Parents can use a pet to teach children of any age responsibility. Pets require daily feeding, exercise, attention, and cleaning up after. Depending on the pet, they may also require regular brushing. No matter the age of the child, they can learn responsibility from the pet. Younger children can learn through one task such as feeding or playtime. Older children can learn how to care for a pet by performing multiple tasks daily. The tasks that are required to care for a pet are a small price to pay for such a loyal companion.
Patience: It takes patience to bond with a new pet. While the family is getting used to having a pet in the house; the new pet is becoming comfortable with its new surroundings. At this pivotal point in the new relationship, it is important that a child is taught the correct way to interact with the pet. A child will learn patience while the new pet becomes comfortable with the family.
Trust/Respect: The biggest part of this bonding time is building trust and respect between the family and the new pet. Children must be taught how to touch the pet gently, tend to its needs, and learn not to disturb the pet when it’s eating or sleeping. Once this relationship has been made, pets make wonderful trusted companions.
Compassion: The work that goes into building a relationship with a pet teaches children compassion. Caring for a pet requires compassion and understanding. The new pet can’t communicate with words what it needs. A child needs to be taught to understand the subtle body language that pets use to convey their desires. A pet needs a compassionate caretaker who can understand the pet’s required care.
Self-esteem: Pets show unconditional love to the family that cares for it. This love can be a great boost to a child’s self-esteem. A pet can be a constant companion for the child. The pet’s nonjudgmental love makes it easy for the child to confide in the pet. The skills used to build this relationship with a pet will also give the child the confidence to use these skills with others in their life.
Owning a pet teaches children how to respect others and build trusting relationships using patience and compassion. All this being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all children are ready for pet ownership. Parents should first make sure they are able to help their child with the pet. Together, the family should decide what type of pet is best. Moreover, don’t assume a child will take care of the pet without assistance from the first day. The ultimate responsibility usually falls on the parents, not the child, to make sure the pet is cared for properly. But allowing a pet to become a member of your family will benefit everyone involved.