A pet can bring lots of rewards with fun and cuddles, and children can polish skills by taking care of an animal.It can be tricky deciding the right time to get a family pet, but there are questions parents can ask themselves to determine if the time has come.
Are the children comfortable around animals? If a child is fearful, having a pet will not be a cure. Parents can introduce their children to animals at a shelter and they can spend time with their friends' pets. Children who fear animals are more likely to make a mistake around animals. Rather than forcing children and animals together, parents can have their kids watch as the adults demonstrate how to act around animals.
Do the children show respect for animals? Children will need to follow the family's rules and guidelines for behavior around animals, such as not hitting a pet, touching it gently and never bothering it while it is eating. Also, children not only will need to remember that pets need time away from interaction, they must have the self-control to leave the pet alone.
Do children take responsibility and are they old enough to handle certain tasks? Parents assign certain tasks so that children can not only learn responsibility but also act independently. Do the children remember to brush their teeth without being reminded? If so, they probably will remember to take care of a pet's daily needs. Families can arrange a weekend of dog-sitting so children can see firsthand what it takes to care for a pet. If they wish to start slowly, parents can be partners in pet care rather than making a child solely responsible. Parents not only need to determine the level of a child's responsibility with a pet, they should keep track of how their children are doing with their tasks.
Are the children really committed to getting a pet? Children might be extremely excited when a neighbor gets a puppy, but they might not be as psyched if they are the main caregivers of an animal. No one wants to bring an animal into their home and then have it neglected.
Do the children understand that the best pet would be good for the entire family? Different animals need different levels of attention, so not every type of animal will be a great pet for every family. Families interested in a dog can do research to find out the breeds that would be a good fit. Extra-loving toddlers can endanger tiny animals. Some pets, such as birds, take a greater time investment than others, such as cats.
Is the entire family ready for a pet? All family members will be affected by the presence of a pet, so if someone in the household is allergic to animals or doesn't like certain animals, a pet can lead to trouble. Having a pet is not a matter of majority rule; this is a decision that must be unanimous.
Finally, are the parents ready to take on the responsibility of a pet? Of course, the children might seem ready to be the caretakers, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the adults in the household. Not only must they be ready to step in if needed, but they will need to continue teaching the children about pets and monitoring the children's interactions with them.