For many families, pets are a fact of life. Either the couple had pets before children or grew up with animals at home and got a pet quite soon after having one or more kids. But for others, the idea creates anxiety. What if a pet is dangerous? What about germs or allergies? Today we’re going to look at some of the benefits of having pets and lessons that they can teach kids.
Responsibility & respect
Pets need things they can’t do for themselves: feeding, grooming, exercise, water, love, companionship. Of course, the amount of each varies a lot depending on the pet you choose, but providing these or helping a parent do so, teaches a child a lot.
There’s also respect. Some animals are more patient than others, but if you have a pet in the home, kids will have to learn early not to jump on them, pull their fur, or shout at them. Not only can that be scary for the animal, but it can also encourage a strong reaction from the animal.
Compassion & trust
Kids are often on the receiving end of compassion but having a pet teaches them to offer it as well. When your dog reacts to a stranger by barking at them, it’s easy for kids to understand that they are acting out because they are scared or protective. Providing all their daily needs also helps to foster compassion.
Trust is another great one that having a pet teaches children. Well looked after pets trust their family implicitly and offer emotional support unquestioningly. Consider the cat who snuggles up with the crying child or the dog who lays their head on the knee of one who has been injured. This show of unquestioning, undemanding support and loyalty allows kids to trust.
Patience & consistency
Creating a bond with a pet takes patience — something kids (and adults!) all too often lack. It’s something we all learn from having a pet. Teaching pets to do something also takes consistency. It’s something we as parents often offer our children, but it’s something kids can work with for pets too.
Say, you’re housetraining a puppy, or teaching the cat to use a litterbox. Your child can offer the same boundaries and limits as you do, working with you to help teach their pet to change their behaviour.
There are so many other lessons pets teach us. How to maintain a healthy lifestyle, how to cope with loss, how to be aware of how our behaviour affects others. Learning all of these lessons in the safety of the home with a pet is great practice for taking it outside into school and the playground.
- The benefits of a family pet: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_benefits_of_a_family_pet
- 10 Life Lessons from Owning a Pet: https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2014/11/14/10-pet-ownership-life-lessons.aspx
- Pets Can Teach Children Valuable Life Skills: https://www.canidae.com/blog/2010/02/pets-can-teach-children-valuable-life-skills/
- Life Lessons Kids Learn From Having Pets: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/life-lessons-kids-learn-from-having-pets