It doesn't matter how old your children are, every parent worries that they will be the one left holding the lead. The key to ensuring your children look after their pets is to sit down for a serious conversation before you bring a pet home. They need to know what is involved in the process of pet ownership and the responsibilities they will have to undertake as a result. It's important that you do your research as well. There are all different types of pets to choose from. They have varying levels of financial, time, and energy commitments. You have to choose the right type of pet and the perfect breed for your family.
Be The Role Model
You don't want to get left with all the work, but you can show your child how to look after their pet by leading by example. That doesn't mean you should do all the work. It simply means that if your children have no pet experience, you will need to show them the steps it takes to care for them. So, show them where the food is and what bowls to use. Teach them how to clean those bowls and how often they should do so. Walk them through the steps of brushing coats, playing with appropriate toys, and ensuring your pet is properly exercised. Nobody walks into a job on day one and knows how to do everything.
Create A Schedule
A chore chart or wall schedule is an excellent way to ensure they are staying on top of things. Not only does it provide them with a visual reminder, but it's also a simple way for you to keep tabs on how they're doing. If you have several children, you can assign them a colour to code the chart. Always assign age-appropriate tasks.
For example, if you have children under three, you can teach them not to pick up pets without a parent there. You can impress the importance of gentle petting and staying out of the way while their furry friend is eating. They might not be able to help with the care, but they can watch an older sibling or parent get to grips with pet care. When kids reach four and five, they can help a bit more, especially with feeding their pet treats. By the time your child is six, you should consider teaching them how to groom your pet. An enclosed garden is an excellent area for them to practice walking with a lead. By 8, they should be able to take a pet for short walks (with a parent), groom, play, clean up, and essentially, do all of the necessary daily pet care chores.
One of the struggles with smaller children is helping them understand that pets are their own little 'people'. They need to understand the importance of responsibility it takes to care for a pet. The best way to show them that is to involve them.
For example, you can put your kids in charge of playtime. This is a big one for cats who often get bored with the same old toys. They need daily stimulation and active playtime. Encourage your child to create a different playtime with different toys. Show them how to play safely to prevent too many scratches! Likewise, dogs need lots of play too and it's often overlooked because they get regular walks or time in the backyard. Your child can take over play responsibility and it will keep them both active. In addition to playtime, you can ensure your child is part of daily walks to get them into the routine.
You can also get your children involved in feeding time. Their age will determine how much they can help, but you can show them how to weigh or measure the pet's food. You can let your child take charge of filling the water bowls with fresh water daily and ensuring they get topped up.
The Circle of Life
It's the part of pet ownership that nobody really wants to think about, but the circle of life is inevitable. When the time comes, you can schedule peaceful euthanasia at your home. It will provide everyone in the family a comfortable place to say goodbye and ensure your last moments with your pet are special. This is your opportunity to teach your children about the circle of life. Losing a pet teaches children about illness, loss, reproduction, birth, and the grieving process.
According to a study from Michigan State University, pet ownership keeps children motivated. Looking after a pet provides children with an internal motivation that can spread to other areas of their lives, including improved grades. Ultimately, with pet ownership comes a spectrum of skills that will serve them well throughout life. There is also the added benefit of a self-esteem boost, patience, empathy, and social skills.
A pet isn't just a furry companion. They quickly become our most loyal friends and part of the family. With the right guidance, your child can make pet ownership more joyous than chore-ish. All it takes is the right advice, a patient hand, and a lovable pet.