We've discussed why having a pet is good for your health, but how do you know if your child ready to take on the responsibility of pet ownership? With benefits like decreased risk of allergies and lower stress levels, it's no wonder why many families are looking to add a furry friend to their family. Pets are also a great way to help children learn responsibility and empathy, two very important qualities that will serve them well through life. Before you jump in headfirst, though, here are some key points to keep in mind to determine if your child is ready for this awesome responsibility.
Make sure the pet is developmentally appropriate. First, ask yourself whether or not you will be actively participating in the care of your child's pet. For example, will your child be primarily responsible for feeding the dog each morning? Is he or she at an age where they can remember to do so? Is a snake or lizard really the best choice for your curious toddler? Make sure that the pet you are choosing and the responsibility you are bestowing align with your child's developmental stage.
Assess your child's maturity and responsibility level. We can all be a little forgetful at times, but generally, there are key characteristics your child should possess in order to be ready for a pet. He or she should be able to listen to and follow directions, have a generally calm nature, and show love and empathy towards animals. These are all signs that your child is ready for pet ownership.
How Does Your Child Act Around Pets? When you go to a friend or family member's house with a pet, is your child gentle and loving? Does he or she show a respect and appreciation for animals? If your child can't keep her hands to herself or tends to be a little too overly enthusiastic with animals, this might be a sign that she's not yet ready for a pet of her own.
Have a back-up plan. Pets are meant to be permanent members of the family -- think about why you are considering a pet. Is it mostly for your child, or are you also interested in caring for it? What happens when your child loses interest in the pet? Are you going to be there to step in and pick up the slack? If this isn't something you're ready or willing to do, a family pet is likely not a good fit.
Research different pets. Most children are drawn to cats and dogs, but make sure you really sit down and get a sense of this responsibility. Can your family comfortably afford vet bills? Do you have a smaller living space that isn't conducive to large tanks or larger dogs? Are you able to give your dog regular exercise? There are a lot of different factors to consider, and each family is going to have different circumstances to see which pet, if any, is right for them. Here's a great quiz to figure out which pet might be the best fit for you.
Do a Trial Run. Pet sit for a friend or neighbor and allow your child to help with the bulk of the responsibility. What is his or her reaction? Do they seem excited by the possibility of pet ownership, or does it seem like it will be too much work for them? This is a great (and temporary!) way to see if a pet is a good fit for your family.
One important aspect to keep in mind is that when you adopt a pet and bring a new animal into your home, it might take time for everyone to adjust. Your kids might need time to learn how to be responsible and gentle -- and that's ok!
What do you think, Austin parents? How did you know that a pet was right for your family?
About the Author:
Jessica is an East Coast girl originally from Boston, MA but recently transplated to Austin, TX. She is a former OB Nurse Educator turned Content Manager and Brand Strategist. She recently founded Every Mama Birth Education, where she creates customized childbirth education courses for busy moms, in the comfort of their own homes. When she's not busy blogging or being a pregnancy and birth nerd, you can catch her chasing around her three busy kids and rescue fur baby. You can also follow her antics on Instagram.