Children and Pets!

by Cinda Chatfield, B.A.

If you know me personally, you know that I’m a lover of all creatures, human and animals! I believe that living with animals is one of the best ways to bring unconditional love into your home. I have two wonderful dogs that bring me such joy and peace… when they’re not barking to be let out, of course. I’m a huge advocate for having pets in your home, and I can vouch from first-hand experience how it has made a positive impact on my children and family.

Yet, many parents of young children have the debate over whether or not introducing pets to their home is a good idea. While I think animals make lovely additions to the home, it is very important to take the necessary time to consider whether a pet is a good fit for your home and lifestyle! Pets are generally great with children. They tend to understand children’s needs and will generally (depending on breed) exhibit protective and nurturing behaviors towards babies, toddlers and children. Having said that, it is important to choose a mild-mannered animal that will show great care and love for your babies. Babies and fur-babies are so cute when they become friends, so start the relationship off by introducing your child to your pet in a gradual and well-monitored way. Allow them to have supervised, yet limited time together so that your pet will get used to your baby grabbing its tail and your baby can get familiar with the feeling of multiple loving-licks.

For children that are a bit older, having a pet is a great way for them to have something to look after and care for. This offers an opportunity for your children to gain an amount of responsibility, and the pet’s needs can encourage them to stick to a schedule of walking, feeding, etc. This will also help form a bond between your pet and your child, which provides your child a healthy way to decompress when stressed, cuddle when sad and talk to when they feel no one else will listen. Pets have incredible soothing qualities and can be great emotional-aids if your child is prone to anxiety. They can also teach kids the incredible gift of empathy toward other animals and humans. Having said that, remember that although you wrapped a cute bow around the pet and presented it to your child as the perfect holiday gift, the pet actually belongs to you, the adult. Ultimately, it’s your time, resources and responsibility to care for the pet, so make sure that you can provide for them with your schedule! Pets are wonderful sources of love, and they deserve as much care and attention as they will certainly give to you! Consider the best options for your family, and if it fits, go for it!

Final thoughts:

Many families with young children go back-and-forth on the idea of having a pet in the home. From my experience, I can say that there’s nothing like having the enthusiastic greeting from a furry friend, or another pet to care for such as a bird, reptile or fish. Pets are great for kids, but make sure your entire family is ready for the responsibility!

About the Author: Cinda Chatfield, B.A. has worked for over 15 years as a Child Development Specialist, Parent & Family Educator and Advocate. Cinda is the founder of Chatfield & Company, a collective dedicated to creating a harmonious home environment for parents and children. For more specifics on identifying and responding to inappropriate behaviors, feel free to contact Cinda for guidance and support. Visit: chatfieldandcompany.com, go to blog link, click on “Ask Cinda”