Children who take care of at least one pet tend to have a more caring attitude towards animals and other people. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills. They are able to communicate as they learn to read subtle cues from body posture and empathize, as they become curious about how their pets feel. Children also get unconditional love from pets which boost their confidence, and become resilient when things don’t always go their way. Pets also teach kids the importance of developing nurturing skills that extends to taking good care of their own self as well.
It is interesting to note that a study in 2000 explored the relationship of pets and children, specifically the effect of dog ownership on 10-12 year old children. The researcher, Dr. Robert Bierer, was surprised at the difference in empathy and self-esteem between preadolescents who owned a dog and those who did not. It had a ‘statistically significant’ impact on a child’s confidence and sensitivity toward others.
Parents know their children best and they are the best judge when their child is ready to have a pet. Most experts would say that children should be at least six years old before a pet is brought home as they generally have some self-control and can obey simple rules at this age. If you are considering getting a pet for your child, here are some questions you should ask before deciding:
1. How does my child react to other people’s pets? One way of finding out if your child is ready to have a pet is to observe your kid around other people’s pets and see how he/she reacts to animals when exposed to them over a period of time
2. Am I ready as a parent to supervise and support my child in taking care of a pet? The responsibility and care of a pet ultimately rests on the parent and not the child. Having pets is not as easy as it seems especially if you do not have the time and energy to provide the needed guidance and supervision. Here in the Philippines, while most of the feeding, grooming and cleaning after the pet are assigned to the household help, it is important that some responsibility is given to the child as well, such as walking the dog and playing with it. It is a great way to have them learn how to be accountable for a life and keeping their pet safe, healthy and happy.
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Click here to learn more about supervising your child in taking care of a pet and choosing the right kind of pet.