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Teaching Responsibility Through Pet Ownership

April 29, 2024

by brittany cotton, guest contributor

Adding a pet to the family is a BIG decision. While the positives quickly add up in the “pros column,” there are still many factors to consider before making this life-changing decision of adding another being to your family. Adopting a pet is an excellent way for our children to learn about managing responsibilities, but it’s important to truly consider if you and they are ready for everything that comes with it. Here are some things to consider:

How a Pet Teaches Your Children About Responsibility

Growing up with a dog, cat, bird, or other companion can instill a sense of responsibility in your children. Additionally, through feeding, grooming, playing with, and accompanying their pet to the vet, they will learn empathy and how to care for another living being. Vet appointments can also help them understand the importance of pet insurance, annual checkups, and why they should seek medical assistance when their pet gets sick.

Your children can also learn responsibility by taking care of their pet's needs regularly. You can adjust your child's pet-related chore duties according to age. For example, if you own a dog, older children can feed it, provide adequate water, and clean up waste around the yard. Children younger than the age of 5 shouldn't take on any pet care on their own, rather they can assist their parents or older siblings with things like feeding their pet. Tagging along and observing how it's done will set them up for success when they're old enough to share the load. In the meantime, they can also help with putting the pet's toys and other belongings away at the end of the day, in addition to tidying up their own areas.

Engaging in regular physical activity is essential not only for your family but also for your pet. If your family decides to get a dog, your children can accompany you as you take it out for walks. As your kids get older, they can take over the responsibility of daily walks, which will also keep them physically active.

The Importance of Owning a Pet When Your Children Are Younger

Adopting a family pet while your children are younger means they will enjoy many years with them, especially if you adopt a cat or a dog. For many families, pets become a significant part of their lives, accompanying them on vacations and other memorable activities. The unconditional love and support cats and dogs offer their families is unique, and your child will develop a bond with them that deepens over time.

Your child will also learn important social and emotional skills as they take care of their new companion. For example, they will learn how to trust. Pets are attuned to their owner's feelings and offer unconditional support on a level unlike another person can. Whenever your child is angry, sad, or frustrated, their pet will be there, providing love and companionship. As your child learns how to trust their pet, they will also learn how to trust themselves better. It will also teach them to look outside of themselves in caring for another being. 

Pets Help Your Children Learn How to Cope With Life's Challenges

Children deal with plenty of daily stress at school and home, as do adults. Petting and playing with a cat, dog or any other pet can help your child positively relieve stress while boosting their psychological well-being. Owning and providing care for a pet can also instill a powerful sense of purpose, enhancing your child's quality of life, especially during challenging times.

Families who adopt a pet can look forward to countless fun and memorable adventures with their new companion. However, there will come a time when your family must face the most challenging part of pet ownership. Grieving the loss of a pet is always difficult, whether it becomes very sick or passes away from old age. However, by giving your children the opportunity to experience grief and bereavement through mourning this loss, you can help them learn healthy coping techniques that will benefit them as they get older.

Children who adopt and care for a pet have many advantages compared to their peers who never have the opportunity to do so. If you're considering adding a pet to your family, understand you're investing in your children's health and happiness. By opening your home to a new pet companion, you'll help your children better understand what it means to be responsible for a living creature. You'll also create opportunities for meaningful social and emotional growth that will serve your children well as they age.

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