My 8 year old is dying to have her first pet. I knew she’d really start trying to get us to buy her a dog soon. And even though we’ve told her we would wait until she is 10 years old, I am thinking my husband is not going to wait that long.
In terms of responsibility there is no difference between a goldfish and a guinea pig. If your child doesn’t fully understand the responsibility involved with a new pet you may end up with another chore every day. Pets can bring a lot of joy into a home and caring for something helpless can teach children necessary life skills that they’ll use throughout the rest of their lives. That being said there are some things you can do to make sure everyone is prepared for the responsibility of a first pet. Use these tips to teach kids the importance of their job as caretaker!
Tips for Teaching Kids Responsibility in Preparation for a First Pet
Explain the Workload
Once the jumping up and down stops you can agree to discuss the options. Make a simple list of the things that will need to be done every day and anything that might need to be done weekly like cleaning a cage or picking up the yard. Try not to make the list unnecessarily overwhelming but instead make it honest. You know what is going to be required, find a way to convey that message to your child. If they spend a few hours each day reading or playing video games explain that that time will be shorter. Make sure they know that part of all pets is poop and someone is going to be picking it up daily or weekly!
Sometimes the best thing we can do is use our imaginations. Create a simple chart, sit a stuffed bear in a plastic tote, and use a stopwatch if necessary to practice for a few weeks in a trial run. Maybe they don’t like how long it takes to feed their new pet, perhaps they like the change from reading or watching TV. There’s no way to tell how your child will react to a new pet and all the tasks associated with them unless you try it out. If they have to get up a few minutes early in order to feed and water their new pet they might change their mind in a hurry. Getting them into a routine of going through the motions not only weeds out any unfounded whims, it prepares them for the tasks they’ll need to do should you decide to bring a new pet into the house!
Phone a Friend
If you have someone nearby who has a similar pet send your kid there as often as possible. Assign them pet related tasks where they can get real world experience. You can’t pretend to clean out a rabbit cage and really understand what it’s like without being around a rabbit and its cage. The same goes for doggie duty in the yard, the real world experience will encourage them to see the good and bad side of pet ownership. Spending time playing with and loving a real pet can encourage them to see the benefits along with the responsibility.
Call your local pet store and ask about free classes. There are lots of pet stores that offer free classes for all kinds of pet owners. If they offer these types of classes take your kids along so they can learn about their pet’s needs. They can learn a lot of valuable information in these classes but it will also teach them that owning a pet means making sacrifices and working hard to make their life a priority!
Ask your child to do some research on the pet they would like to get. Have them work to convince you that they have put some time in on their own. You are the person standing between them and their new pet; let them work to show you they can handle the responsibility. They might learn some new facts and perhaps it will help them decide if their new pet is a good fit for their lifestyle.
Entertainment that Promotes Responsibility
On episode S1E1: Puppies & Guppies/ Sorry We’re Closed Today of Veggie Tales in the House Larry and Laura Carrot want to adopt puppies but quickly learn it takes responsibility in order to watch over and care for a pet of their own. This episode is perfect for the kids to watch before getting a first pet.
More than anything it is important to teach your kids that an irresponsible pet owner can be dangerous for their pet. Obviously you would never let anything awful happen to their pets but unless you are okay with being strapped with a bunch of extra work, make it clear that a pet that goes uncared for may die or be rehomed! No matter what you decide in the end all of these tips will help your child learn useful skills about following through with their intentions. Putting in some time researching and learning, real world skills, and Bennie the stuffed bunny will all help your youngsters gain insight and responsibility in preparation for their new pet.
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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine alone.