Who are the extended parts of your family that may whine in the middle of the night to go outside,  put holes in your furniture when playing or take treats directly from the garbage, yet can melt your heart with a joyful greeting as soon as your family enters the house? Whether your member may be a dog, cat, turtle, hamster or even fish, there are real benefits to having them around when it comes to giving children important life lessons. Keep in mind it is important to teach and reteach your children how to care for and treat your pets. It is best to always monitor children’s interactions with animals to make sure both stay safe.

Emotionally, pets can teach children things including:

  • Non-verbal communication: Pets can give subtle cues to their feelings and children need to learn to read those cues. This provides children with valuable life skills in human interactions such as how to look into gestures, body posture and response.

  • Empathy: Children begin to become concerned about the feelings of others with the help of their pets. Because pets communicate differently, children will be curious about their feelings and thoughts and may try to interpret them. This helps children begin to relate to others and the world.

  • Nurturing/Caretaking skills: Pets are dependent on humans, and with proper supervision, children can help care for their pet. This teaches them how to care for others and they take pride in keeping them healthy and happy.

  • Confidence: Pets, naturally, are not judgmental and take joy in the smallest of pleasures including spending time with your child. Every day, children are rated by behavior, performance, etc. by their teachers, parents and friends, and the unconditional love of a pet has no expectations but the hope for interaction. This builds children's self-esteem to know that someone is looking up to them with unconditional acceptance.

  • Coping with change: Children that go through traumatic experiences or big changes are able to cope better and find comfort with the companionship of a pet. When everything is changing, the pet is the constant that they can depend on.

While these skills and experiences are benefits to having pets in your home and they can increase children’s responsibilities, they are not reasons to go out and get a pet as the majority of the burden lies on the adults for caretaking. It is important to evaluate all parts of your life to see if you have the time, finances and commitment to give to a pet.

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