part of many children's lives. Parental involvement, open
discussion, and planning are usually necessary to help make
pet ownership a positive experience for everyone. A child
who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and
patiently, gets invaluable training in learning to treat people
the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for
both the pet and the child involved.
an Appropriate Pet
all kinds of pets can bring children pleasure, it is important
to choose a pet that is right for your family, your home,
and your lifestyle; and one that your child can help care
for. Parents should be cautious about having aggressive animals
as pets. Remember, even trained and domesticated animals can
be aggressive. Also, exotic and unusual animals may be difficult
to care for and should be considered carefully.
for a Pet
care of a pet can help children develop social skills. However,
certain guidelines apply:
very young children (under the age of 3-4 years) do not
have the maturity to control their aggressive and angry
impulses, they should be monitored with pets.
children (under 10 years) are rarely able to care for a
large animal, a cat or a dog, on their own.
must oversee the pet's care even if they believe their child
is old enough to care for a pet.
children become lax in caring for a pet, parents may have
to take over the responsibility on their own.
should be reminded in a gentle, not scolding way, that animals,
like people, need food, water, and exercise.
a child continues to neglect a pet, a new home may have
to be found for the animal.
serve as role models. Children learn responsible pet ownership
by observing their parents' behavior.
of Pet Ownership
raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings
about pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and self-confidence.
Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development
of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship
with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication,
compassion, and empathy. Pets can serve different purposes
and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include:
can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts--children
often talk to their pets, like they do their stuffed animals.
provide lessons about life; reproduction, birth, illnesses,
accidents, death, and bereavement.
can help develop responsible behavior in the children who
care for them.
provide a connection to nature.
can teach respect for other living things.
loyalty, and affection
with loss if a pet is lost or dies.
most children are gentle and appropriate with pets, some may
be overly rough or even abusive. If such behavior persists,
it may be a sign of significant emotional problems. Any child
who abuses, tortures or kills animals should be referred to
a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a comprehensive evaluation.
information see Facts for Families: #24 Know When to
Seek Help for Your Child, #25 Know Where to Seek Help for
Your Child, and #52 Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your
Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).
#75 Updated 03/00