Many children and adolescents at some point express a desire to have a pet, and almost every parent knows the enthusiasm and excitement with which children approach these creatures. However, when deciding to buy a pet, a number of factors must be considered, such as the abilities, conditions, habits and commitments of the whole family. Different pets require different types of care and different amounts of time. Adults should be aware that it is not possible to leave all of a pet’s care to children, especially if they are visiting a veterinary clinic, for example. Before making the decision, all (adult) members of the household should agree on their willingness to introduce a pet into the family, i.e., they should be aware of the responsibility they are taking on, as well as their own conditions, but also compromises and changes that the pet will bring to the family.
Making a decision about introducing a pet into a family.
The decision to introduce a pet into the family should never be made lightly, in a raid, as a surprise, or without the knowledge and consent of other (adult!) family members. It is necessary to consider the lifespan of each pet. Indeed, domestic cats can live up to 20 years, dogs about 15 years, some turtles up to 30 years, certain species of parrots can live more than 20 years, rabbits and hares about 12 years, hamsters about 2 – 4 years, while its slightly larger relatives guinea pigs live on average 5 years. For some pets, the lifespan should be kept in mind, as it is a living creature that needs to be cared for at moments when the child grows up and has other obligations, school trips, extracurricular or extracurricular activities and the like.
If the decision to buy a pet is made lightly and the rest of the household does not accept the pet as expected, the care of the pet falls on one person and often ends up with the pet being returned to the shelter or breeder. or end up on the street, discarded.
Once all options have been weighed and the family has decided to purchase a pet that children and teens alike will enjoy, adult family members should align their responsibilities, at least for the first few weeks, until the pet becomes accustomed to the family dynamic.
When adopting or purchasing a pet, especially a dog, adults often ask themselves, “Is he good with children?” and patient in nature. It is certainly good to consult the literature, a veterinarian or breed breeder to adapt child and dog to each other as easily and quickly as possible.
Introducing pets to families with young children can have a number of scientifically proven positive effects. Attachment to a pet plays an important role in children’s social, emotional, motor, and cognitive development and has a positive impact on overall well-being as well as quality of life. Research has shown that children who grow up in families with pets have significantly better overall health, are more physically active, and have fewer behavioral and learning problems. It has also been confirmed that children who have dogs as pets experience their parents’ divorce much more easily and with less stress. In addition, children with dogs have higher self-esteem, which is associated with respect for others, which also improves relationships with parents, peers and teachers. One of the most important things owning a pet teaches children is a sense of responsibility, which is an important life lesson when it comes to caring for a pet.
Children need to be supported and encouraged to care for their pet as independently as possible, but also to be there for the child, helping and supervising. Adults are important to the healthy and undisturbed development of the child-pet relationship by setting limits and adopting basic rules of behavior toward the pet and guiding the child’s behavior toward the pet to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
The positive effects of pets, especially dogs, exceed the limits of psychological well-being, so health studies have shown that children who later grew up with dogs are less likely to develop asthma and various forms of allergies. Experts claim that dogs in children develop an immune system with just as much stimulation as needed. When children need antibiotic treatment, research shows that children who grew up with a dog need a significantly lower dose to objectively improve their health.
Recently, the issue of the high representation of screens, i.e. smartphones, tablets, laptops and other gadgets in children’s lives, has been increasingly discussed among parents, guardians and experts. Although there are many positive aspects of the advancement of digital technology, children and adolescents are most vulnerable to its negative aspects, as well as exposed. Scientific research and practice agree that pets distract children from screens and encourage them to engage in various activities – walking, combing, cleaning cages, changing sand, giving food and water, playing… All these activities of children with pets develop mutual affection, empathy skills and provide a sensory contact that digital devices cannot offer children.