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Mum, Can We Have a Pet Please?

31/07/2013 | Child Health, Education, Parent Health, Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

Every parent hears these dreaded words at some point – “Can we have a pet please?”.  If you’re a family that already has pets, then this won’t come as a shock to you – you already incorporate pets into your life and will probably have no problem taking on one more.  Especially if the one more is something small like a goldfish.

However, if pets haven’t come into the equation for you so far, then you’re probably filled with trepidation and this latest necessity for kids.  Pets – they’re great for kids, a brilliant way of teaching empathy and responsibility.  Having a pet is part of growing up and your child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development will get a boost from playing with and taking care of a pet, however large or small.

Interacting with a pet is a great way of developing social skills and other children are more likely to approach and communicate with a child who is playing with a pet.  Pets promote self esteem in children and helping with caring for a pet is a great way of encouraging self confidence.  The amount of responsibility each child has for a family pet needs to be age-appropriate.  The littlest ones just need to learn that it’s their responsibility to treat the pet with kindness and respect. 

As the kids grow older and more capable, it’s  a good idea to give them more responsibility towards the pet.   They can help with feeding, grooming and even walking when they’re old enough.

Encourage your child’s interest in the family pet – help them to research the type of animal or breed.  Take your child with you to vet’s appointments – this is a great opportunity for your child to discuss different aspects of your pet’s care with an expert. 

Having a pet isn’t just beneficial for the kids – it’s valuable for every member of the family.  Research has found that living with a pet lowers stress for everybody in the family.  In fact, interaction with pets is considered so valuable in so many ways that pets are used in therapy nowadays!

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