Caring for family pets is a big responsibility! Pets need patience, love and attention, food and water, grooming, exercise, playtime, and medical care throughout their lives. Sounds a lot like what we all require, especially kids! So with that, it is important to remember that as kids are learning responsibilities in life, they also must learn that pets are living creatures that deserve to be treated kindly and with compassion, and that they are a lifetime commitment. This can be very time consuming, but well worth the effort. The level of responsibility you teach a child certainly depends on their age. How much responsibility do you think he or she can handle? What would be age-appropriate and considered safe for him or her to do? Overall, as a parent, you are responsible for supervision in pet caretaking by making sure the pet is well cared for.
Here are some points for promoting positive pet care:
- If there is already a pet in the home, kids will have an idea of what it takes to care for one, but still may need oversight in overall pet care. If a pet is not yet in the home, it can be helpful to start with a “pretend animal” and teach kids the basics of care that way first.
- Help kids understand that sometimes pets do not want attention, and give examples of what that looks like so they can be respectful of that.
- Some pets like hugs and some don’t, so it’s important for kids to understand acceptable ways to show affection.
- Teaching a gentle, calm approach with pets is important.
- Sometimes it’s important to leave pets alone. This is especially true when they are not feeling well, or they’ve had an eventful day.
- Teach kids how to interact appropriately with new animals. This includes animals they meet when you’re out around town. When you come across people walking their pets, always ask the owner before approaching an animal. Remind children they must always be respectful, gentle, and cautious when meeting new animals.
- Make it easy for kids to complete their tasks. For instance, you can draw out instructions and tape to a food container so they know how much to feed the pet.
- Children can easily become overwhelmed when too much is required of them, so finding a balance that keeps them enthused and participating without feeling overwhelmed is key.
- Reward smaller kids with a daily “star” for their efforts in helping with a pet-related chore. Children need praise and reward for completing tasks. Positive reinforcement promotes positive results.
- Offer an allowance of sorts for helping with pets. This could be in the form of a “point system” where a certain number of points are given for specific chores that can be cashed in later for various things.
- A most valuable tool in teaching kids to be responsible pet caretakers is to set an example by fulfilling this role well ourselves!
Note: There are many books available on teaching kids how to interact with animals.
*Readers are reminded it is entirely of their own accord, right, and responsibility to make informed and educated decisions on their pet’s health care. Jenny Magli disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Jenny is a Certified Natural Health Consultant for pets and their people, and an Animal Iridology, Healing Touch for Animals (Level 2) and NES Bioenergetics practitioner. She is available for consultations and presentations. She can be reached at (906) 235-3524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.