We all know that pets are cute, furry additions to the family. But they do more than bring joy to the home. For children and adults alike, they teach valuable lessons about different aspects of life.
When you decide to take a pet into your home, you cannot only think about what it can offer you. Pet ownership comes with its unique set of responsibilities that everyone in the family can pitch in to accomplish.
Your kids can also play a part in this. In taking care of your pet and contributing to various tasks, you, as parents, can help instill lessons in them.
What Your Kids Can Learn from Pet Ownership
The process of caring for a pet introduces a wealth of practical life skills to a child. From relating with others to coping with loss, these are some big lessons children learn from having a pet at home.
1. Dealing with Grief
Loss is the hardest to discuss, so it’s best to tackle it first. The unfortunate truth about life is that pet owners usually outlive their pets. We cannot shield our kids from the reality that your pet will not be with your family forever.
But it is important to note that this does not mean that they cannot be remembered as a part of your family even after they’re gone. As a family, you can keep the memories of your pet through pictures and videos. You may also go a step further by going for taxidermy, which preserves the likeness of your pet.
Even when you keep a memorial of your pet, however, it is still important to guide kids through the journey of dealing with grief. By understanding the feelings that come with losing a pet, they will be better equipped to handle other unpleasant situations in the future.
2. Building Responsibility
A pet brings with it several daily responsibilities. Rather than leaving all the work to the adults, delegate simple ones to your kids. Supervise and teach them for tasks such as putting food in the pet’s bowl or combing its fur.
Responsibilities are great opportunities to let your child put values and principles into practice. They learn to make their own decisions, and equally importantly, they learn how to be accountable for their actions.
By involving them in your pet’s daily routine, your child will understand that a pet is not just for fun. It is also a responsibility. And when they learn how to handle responsibilities and do them well, your child’s self-esteem develops, too.
3. Staying Physically Active
Abstract lessons are not the only things kids learn by owning pets. Pets also help your child stay physically fit by taking time to play with them regularly.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health discovered that families who own dogs engage in more physical activity than those who do not. Children in dog-owning families, too, spend more time exercising.
Simple games of fetch or catch in the backyard are safe activities that get the blood pumping. If you have older kids who can handle it, you can even give them the chance to walk the dog now and then.
4. Understanding Respect
Pets return the respect and affection you give them. By knowing the dos and don’ts of getting along with a pet, your child learns what it means to be respectful of others.
Having a pet also teaches kids an early lesson about personal space. There are moments when they try to play with a pet and may be rejected or receive no response. Other times, a child may also lack gentleness in caressing a pet.
In those kinds of situations, they will notice a pet respond negatively to their actions. Guide them through what this means and teach them how to be gentle and understanding—not just to pets but also to other people.
5. Practicing Empathy
Having a pet for a long period makes it inevitable to become emotionally attached to it. This makes a child more sensitive to how a pet is feeling, which allows them to practice kindness. Being exposed to the different emotions a pet goes through builds empathy, as they come to know what it is like to feel for someone or something outside of themselves.
Pets are a gift because of the happiness they bring to a household and the lessons they impart to every member of the family, especially children. Consider these benefits and the challenges that come with them when deciding on owning a family pet.