If you’re thinking about getting a pet for your little one, there are several benefits that help to justify the extra work and cost involved in caring for a pet. Experts report that having pets can help to build confidence, self-esteem and compassion in small children. They can also learn some early lessons about loyalty and trust.
As with most everything you do in the presence of your child, they first learn how to treat pets and small animals by watching you. Do you swat the cat? Yell and curse at the dog? How do you hold and pet your animals? These are great opportunities for you to model kindness and caring. You can guarantee that your child will mimic your actions.
Young children usually respond to small animals with love and affection. But they are often a little over enthusiastic when hugging and or holding small animals and squeeze to hard. Avoiding the temptation to see what happens when they pull an animals tail can be great. Little ones are big on cause and effect, so use it to your advantage. Point out consequences like “If you pull the dog’s ear, if hurts him, but if you pet him nicely he wags his tail because he’s happy.” And for the safety of your child and even the pet, you need to supervise their interactions so that you can point out the behaviors that are not desirable. How you care for your pet can demonstrate important values like caring for those who are weaker and need help and caring for nature and God’s gifts.
Children often form very strong bonds with their pets. They will consider them an important part of the family and a friend that they can confide in, project feelings that they can’t quite admit to having themselves. Pets offer much comfort to a child that they may not be able to get elsewhere.
Lastly, the biggest concern that parents face when their children have pets is the death of a pet. Generally children are not fearful of death and if the death of a pet is handled carefully, they will not become fearful. Talk about it. Encourage your child to come up with a way to celebrate their pet…it could be as simple as coloring a picture of their pet, having a funeral, maybe even a pet parade. To help prevent your child from developing fears about death give very clear and simple reasons to explain the death of a pet. Explain that the pet was very old or that it got a disease. Never tell them that their pet just went to sleep and didn’t wake up.
No matter what, your child’s pet is going to play a very important role in your child life. It will entertain an imagination and teach them to love and care for others in ways that only a cute, furry little creature can.