If you had a pet as a child, you can likely remember that special bond people develop with animals. Maybe you have memories of picking up your first pup from the animal shelter or cuddling with your kitten late at night. You might have even considered your pet among your best friends; there’s just no connection like the one between a child and a pet. In addition to the camaraderie a pet can provide, though, pet ownership can teach your child (and you) some valuable life lessons. Here are some perks to having a pet (besides the obvious cute factor).
- Learning responsibility – Even young kids can help with daily pet care. Teaching your child how to properly care for a pet is teaching your child how to care for another living being. Your pet will require exercise, play, feeding, affection, grooming and potty time. Young kids can learn how to be responsible by taking on age-appropriate roles in caring for your pet. When a pet’s life is your child’s responsibility, they learn to be reliable to fulfill their obligation to that pet.
- Garnering self-esteem – With learning responsibility, your child will have greater self-esteem. Nothing feels better than accomplishing something. Taking care of a beloved pet every day can give your child that sense of accomplishment that is an important building block for lifelong self-esteem.
- Encouraging physical activity – If you have a puppy or dog who needs to go for walks every day, this is a great way to get everybody up and off the couch. Or bring out all of the cat toys and play with your cat to squeeze a little extra physical activity (and fun) into your busy days.
- Fostering kindness and compassion – When you’re taking care of something that can’t tell you what it needs, you must learn empathy skills to figure out how to best care for it. Caring for a pet requires patience, compassion and kindness, which are all skills our children (and we) could always brush up on.
- Forming social skills – Nothing breaks the ice with other families like taking the family dog for a walk together. As you walk your dog together, children will learn how to interact with others who engage you in conversation.
- Becoming patient and being consistent – House training a new pet requires patience and understanding. Allowing your kids to be a part of this process teaches them these critical life skills. Children see that through their hard work, consistency and patience, their dog learned to potty in the yard or their cat used the litter box, and this will give them a big sense of accomplishment.
- Setting goals – Training a new pet, whether for obedience or new tricks, can teach your child valuable lessons about goal setting and what it takes to accomplish goals. If you take your puppy to obedience class, allowing children to be a part of that experience teaches them how to train your dog. They will learn that through consistent effort, their dog will learn to sit, stay, roll over and all other sorts of cool tricks.
- Understanding bereavement – While it’s not one of the happier points of pet ownership, pets typically have much shorter life spans than we do. The loss of a pet can help your children learn to deal with grief and loss, which can help prepare them for the eventual loss of loved ones.
Childhood is a magical time when anything seems possible. Pets can be part of that magic. If your children have pets, we’d love to see pictures or drawings. We’ll be sure to share them with the class so everyone can enjoy!