Monday, February 22, 2021

How to Teach Kids to Share in the Responsibility of Caring for Pets

Often, children express their desire to have pets thinking they're cute and cuddly. However, most kids don't understand how hard it is to care for animals. If your kids are serious about having a family pet, you must delegate pet care chores. Rearing pets can teach kids about love, kindness, patience, and compassion, but above all else, it can reinforce a strong sense of responsibility.

Of course, when choosing a pet, you have to ascertain that the animal's temperament matches your family dynamics and lifestyle. When done with proper care and consideration, your family will have a glorious time making memories with a pet. Consider the following age-appropriate tips to help you encourage your kids to care for the pets in your home:

For ages 3 and below

When children are still very young, they are not mature enough to care for a pet independently. Instead, remind your children that pets are not like stuffed animals. They are living, breathing creatures that feel pain. Remind your young kids:

* Never pinch or pull their tails. 

* Don't pick them up without supervision.

* Avoid teasing pets when they are eating.

* l  Watch out for uncomfortable signs like hissing, growling, or squawking. 

Doing the above teaches your young kids’ boundaries. Moreover, at this stage, your kids learn best from modeling. Instead of telling them to be a good pet parent, show them how it is done. Include them when you're feeding your pets and show them where the supplies are. More than what you say, it is what you do consistently that matters. Model positive behavior by being a responsible pet owner. 


Preschool (4 to 6 years old)

At this age, children are slowly learning what's right and wrong. They begin to realize that they can get scratched if they accidentally step on your pet. Having one around reinforces that every action has a consequence. Now, they can gently cuddle, pet, and play with your pets. You can also instruct them to drop a treat or two during playtime. Children at this stage are still far too young to walk or feed a pet without your supervision. To make them active participants, you can walk the dog together or even ask your children to refill the feeder bowls in your birdcage. Preschoolers begin learning phonics, so it's a good idea to print a picture chore chart to keep your young ones motivated. 


Early Elementary (7 to 9 years old)

Though your young kids have grown, they still need parental supervision. You can start by teaching your kids simple commands like asking a pet to fetch a ball. Asking your kids to play with your pets in a secure backyard is a great way to vent excess energy. You can get your kids off their gadgets while providing your pet attention and stimulation. Apart from that, you can teach your children simple cat or dog grooming, such as gently brushing the fur or putting food on the pet bowls. Doing this assures they feel a sense of ownership for your pets. Apart from that, this teaches delayed gratification as they may have to feed or play with their pet over watching TV.  


Older Elementary (10 to 12 years old)

By the age of 10, your children can properly walk your dog in short distances near your house solo. At this age, your kids can already safely groom your pets or play with them without you. You can give them bigger responsibilities like poop scooping or changing the kitty litter. Though it may seem gross, this chore builds character and helps foster humility. If you have an aquarium, you can give them a schedule of when to feed the fish. You can also ask them to clean the tank and change the water. At this age, teaching proper pet care hygiene is crucial. Though your kids may grumble and complain, setting expectations will assure that you teach important life skills they will used until adulthood.  


Middle School (teen years and beyond)

When your children hit the teen years, a whole new set of responsibilities open up. At this age kids, your kids can understand animal cues. Kids become more mature so that you can delegate bigger responsibilities. You can regularly assign pet care tasks and follow up to ensure everything gets done. It is highly reasonable for you to expect your older children to help with pet upkeep and their habitat maintenance in the teen years. 


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