How to Teach Children to Care for Pets


Give your child the opportunity of shouldering respon­sibility for another living creature—a puppy, a kitten, a hamster, or an animal of your choice!

Your child will learn several valuable lessons in caring for a pet.

He or she will learn that caring for another living creature is a daily responsibility. Animals need to be fed daily. They need fresh water daily. Point out to your child the many ways in which you take care of him or her, as your child, daily. One of the most important life­time lessons that your child can learn is that childraising is a daily responsibility and a daily activity.

By caring for a pet your child will learn that all livingcreatures change as they grow. Puppies do not have the same needs, energy levels, or abilities as a full-grown dog. Draw parallels to your own child’s development. Children need to be aware that people change and that life’s changes are not only inevitable, but in most cases can be accommodated, whether it’s change for the bet­ter or change for the worse.

By caring for a pet your child will learn that living creatures are born, grow to maturity, and die. The death of your child’s pet is an important occasion. It’s a time for serious discussion, and a time when you need to allow your child to feel sorrow. Don’t dismiss the death of a pet as unimportant. Allow your child to grieve.

Death is an important fact of life for a child to learn about, a fact we often try to keep from a child. A very young child, of course, needs to be told about death in terms he or she can understand. Young children do, however, have a tremendous capacity to understand the concept of heaven and to imagine loved ones as having a life in a faraway place. Children find comfort in know­ing that a loved one will never experience pain or sad­ness again.

Encourage involvement with a pet that your child can hold, talk to, and receive some kind of feedback from. I never recommend fish or a turtle as a pet. Look for a pet that has some “play” value with your child, an ani­mal that your child can train or with which your child will enjoy spending time.

Some animals should not be pets. Easter bunnies and little ducks rarely make good pets. As cute and as desir­able as they may seem in the early spring, these are animals that require special food, housing, and care that most people aren’t prepared to give. Be aware that animals need space and sunshine. Apartments aren’t good homes for many pets.

What if you live in a building that doesn’t allow pets or a member of your family is allergic to pets? You can still provide your child an opportunity to be around ani­mals. Take your child to the zoo. Visit petting zoos, too, where your child will have an opportunity to touch ani­mals and to meet, face-to-face, animals he or she would never have as a pet. Visit a farm and observe farm animals with your child. You can also have a fun time with your child at county and state fairs as you explore the animal barns.

Being around animals with your child also provides you an opportunity to discuss issues such as the care of the environment (especially as it relates to endangered species), the uniqueness and diversity of creation, and the fact that animals come as male and female.

Association with animals provides your child an in­sight into his or her role as a caretaker for creation and the fact a child is one living creature among many.

Responsibility for a pet helps prepare your child for the responsibility of caring for others—perhaps even you in your old age!

A child who cares for animals knows, “Mom and Dad value me enough to leave me in charge or to let me help take care of another living creature. They trust me to promote life and know that I’m valuable to the life of my pet.” A child who sees him or herself on the side of life has greater regard for his or her own life, as well as the lives of others.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals

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About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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