The family pet is an image right out of a Norman Rockwell painting—imagine your dog, curled up by the fireplace, or your cat, curled up in your lap. Now, imagine your child chasing the dog, and the cat, and destroying everything in their path!
While pets can be a wonderful way for kids to learn about responsibility, develop empathy, and even learn to connect emotionally to another creature in a safe and loving manner, it is of utmost importance that your new pet is introduced in a way that will keep both the child and the animal safe. This will set the stage for a strong relationship to come, and will ensure that nobody gets squeezed, bitten, dropped, or scratched. Dr. Steven Lazarus provides animal assisted therapy in Littleton, helping kids to build confidence and express their feelings with the help of his trusted therapy pal: Zeke, the dog. Here are the top 5 tips from Dr. Lazarus and Zeke for introducing a pet to your family.
- Choose the right pet. Before bringing home a little ball of fur, make sure your child is mature enough for it. While very small animals like chihuahuas or rabbits may seem like a great idea, children under 10 often lack the fine motor skills to hold these delicate creatures safely. A sturdy dog, cat, or resilient member of the rodent family might make a better pet.
- Teach your child how to interact. Small children especially like to pat, hug, and squeeze—the perfect storm for a bite in the face! Teach children to stroke the animal gently on its back and give it space.
- Help your child understand your pet. For example, cats might arch their backs and hiss when frightened, while dogs may have wide eyes showing the whites or may cower or back away. Remind your child that the pet is not a toy, it is a living being with feelings who must be respected.
- Teach your child that a pet is a long-term commitment. While it can be tempting to get rid of pets when children are not attending to them, this does not teach problem-solving skills, and suggests that some members of the family can simply be discarded. Promote love and responsibility by helping your child provide the best life for their pet.
- Accept the truth: the pet will become the parent’s. Even the most responsible children are still children—they still need caretaking, so they will, on many occasions, forget to feed, water, take out, love, brush, or otherwise care for their pet. Don’t get a pet unless you, the parent, are also interested in adding a furry, scaly, or feathery little ball of love to your home!
To find out more tips on parenting, behavior management, or animal assisted therapy in Highlands Ranch, contact Dr. Steven Lazarus.