Having pets can teach your child many important life lessons. In today’s busy lives, many parents see pets as just another thing to spend money on and look after. But to a child, having a pet can teach them more about real world experiences than you may think.
1. Caring for others. With the pervasive use of technology, we are supposed to be more connected than ever. But virtual relationships cannot replace the value of direct care for something other than ourselves. Having a pet teaches young children that they need to have care for others and that the health and welfare of their pet is dependent on them.
2. Consistency. Ask any health trainer (or financial planner) what the key to long term success is and they will tell you consistency. Doing the things that matter on a regular basis. Kids need to learn that no matter what else is going on in their lives, the fish\bird\cat always needs to be looked after.
3. Time Management. Most people spend their lives rushing around complaining that they don’t have enough time while envying the people that seem to “have it all”. How do busy, successful people find the time to do all the things they want? Good time management (and prioritisation).
Little people need to learn how to make strong choices with their time. Having a pet teaches them that there are tasks that need to be done and that loved ones (the pet) depend on them. This doesn’t mean that having a pet is all work and no fun. My sons love to run around in the backyard with the dog in the morning. But they know they need to get up and get ready for school in time to have the playtime with the dog.
4. Unglamorous jobs are part of life. Most kids grow up with a sense of entitlement that is disconnected from reality. My own children have suffered from this. The first time my son saw a hotel maid he was amazed. He just assumed that hotels magically reset their rooms each time you left for the day because all the hard work goes on behind the scenes.
Being responsible for the care and maintenance of a pet helps children to realise that sometimes you have to shovel dog poop. And if that is your task, you should be the best poop scooper you can be. You can’t half-way clean a bird cage and expect to have a happy, healthy bird. You need to put in your best effort, no matter how unglamorous the job may be.
5. Sad things happen. Sadness, disappointment, loss and grief are all natural human emotions that parents often try to shield their kids from feeling. This is why everyone is a winner and always deserves a trophy or ribbon on sports day. Children who do not experience the full range of emotions lack resilience and the ability to cope with challenges as they get older.
It’s sad, but sometimes pets get sick and even die. This is a natural cycle of life and the emotions that go with it can be important to helping your child learn to realise that while they may feel sad now- it is only a temporary state. Life goes on and you can come out the other side of dark times.
Most of all having pets can teach your child about unconditional love. And that is a lesson worth learning.