Sometimes when you have kids the last thing you want to do is add more to your plate by adding a pet to the mix. Sometimes however getting a pet for your child can be one of the best gifts you will ever give to your child.
As adults we need to carefully examine the circumstances involved in the life of the child and in the home before making the decision to bring a pet into our lives. There are times when a pet can be the key to the development in some children’s lives and even in our lives as adults. Being an only child or even one of many can influence the decision to bring in a pet.
An only child may need companionship or to have someone or something else to think about besides themselves. The home with multiple children can sometimes leave a child feeling that they are not important in the day to day goings on of the home and sometimes a pet can make them feel that they are important. We as adults must make a judgment based on the maturity of the child and what the specific need is when contemplating bringing a pet into the home.
Many times pets can feel like your only friend especially during times of transition such as a family move, a divorce, or some sort of loss in life. Depending on the type of pet they can often offer unconditional love during the times when children are not sure of their present environment. Even we as adults need this kind of unconditional love at certain times in life as much as our children. Pets are well qualified to fill this position. It is well documented that pets help when there is an illness in an individual whether physical or mental.
Pets are sometimes the most valuable companions during the pre-teen and teen years of a child’s life because of all the changes they are going through hormonally and with their peers and the pressures this time in life brings. We as parents sometimes cannot fill this need in our teen’s lives because they are seeking to become independent and they are at a stage when they may be pushing us away. Their pet may be the conduit that is used to express their emotions or get the affection that they so desperately need to make this transformation to adult.
Most of us, even though we may not want to always admit it, have talked to our animals from time to time about some very serious issues. Just the fact that we are stating our problems out loud helps us to solve some hard situations that come into our lives. And being able to state our problems without someone getting annoyed with us or becoming offended that our problem somehow involves them can be so important. Our pets are not there to answer life’s problems or to judge us; they are just there to listen and to love, no matter what. If we as adults feel that way so it will be for our children as well.
There was a time in my own life during my teenage years that our family dog was invaluable to me. He was a full blooded German Shepherd that we had raised from a pup. He was extremely protective and loyal to everyone in the family but he seemed to sense that I was in desperate need of his attention and affection when my family moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I had left behind my first true love and many friends and we had moved to a different part of the country where things were very different along the lines of culture, dress, and mannerism. It was a hard fit for me and I was not sure where my life was going at that point and as hard as my folks tried they could not help me. In fact I considered them the enemy at that point. That faithful dog stayed by my side and watched over me as I sat alone and secretly cried my eyes out. With paw on my arm or leg he would patiently sit and listen to me talk about how very miserable I was. And whether I was coming or going he was there to send me off or greet me. I will never forget him and he was for all intents and purposes the very friend that got me through. There are many times in life we all need this kind of friend, adult and children alike.
Pets can be the best way to teach a child responsibility but it is important that an adult is around to ensure and enforce that responsibility. Becoming responsible requires self discipline and maturity but this is something that is learned, we are not born with these traits. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to make sure the child is taking the very best care of the pet for the pets good and the child’s growth. Sometimes in the beginning it is a good idea to make the pets well being the responsibility of the entire family and not just the individual child. Showing children by example, without taking the responsibility from them completely, is a fundamental teaching tool.
Pets can be the very best thing to happen to the family or the very worst. That is why it is so important to consider all the facts and circumstances in the home before making this important decision. Considering what is best not only for the child and the pet but also what is best for the family before making these commitments is a weighty responsibility but one well worth giving serious consideration to. Pets are not to be bought willy-nilly for everyone’s sake, but especially the pet! We do not want to find that we are not able to handle a pet at this point and then the pet is the one to suffer.
Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. He’s always looking for ways to help families find the support they need to live fuller, richer lives. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go-nannies on Twitter.