When looking back on some of the best memories of childhood, many people remember their family pet. Having a pet is a great way to teach children responsibility while also giving them something that will snuggle its way into their hearts and their most cherished memories.
What to Choose?
When looking for the right family pet, keep in mind what kind of training, feeding or space in the home will be required. Parents should know their limits because a pet is a time consuming commitment no matter what form it takes. Once parents do decide what kind of pet/pets they want, they should come up with a few options for the kids to choose from. Examples of smaller pets that require less care or training are turtles, hamsters, lizards or rabbits. Larger animals that require a little more care are cats and dogs. Have the kids choose what kind of pet they want and take the family on a trip to the pet store!
Before purchasing a pet, explain to the kids that the pet belongs to everyone and that means that everyone can enjoy it but everyone should also take care of it. Make sure the kids understand that in order to have a pet they have to help take care of it. Once the pet and everything the pet needs is purchased, the first step is getting it settled. Have the kids help create a space for their new family member and make them comfortable. Once the pet is settled in, decide on a name and then set up some ground rules.
Parents have to be sure to follow through with requiring the kids to help with caring for their pet. Create a care chart so each family member can write their name on a different pet responsibility. Depending on what kind of pet it is, this can include several different things. Some examples are feeding, watering, cleaning cages, scooping poop, brushing or washing. If a child does not complete their responsibility, they should not be permitted to interact with their pet until their chore is complete.
Having a pet can mean a lot to a child. A pet can be a best friend when they need it most, a snuggle buddy when it is cold outside, entertainment when there is nothing to do or an always faithful show-and-tell project. While every single one of these things is important, it is also important that a child understands what kind of role they play in their pet's life as well. Parents should explain to their kids that they are caring for another life and that is extremely important. Gentleness and kindness should be a key component when teaching children to care for their pets, so make sure they understand how to properly handle the pet while holding them.
The foundation of a child's bond with their pet should involve proper care around the clock, once that foundation is established, that bond can never be broken.