Sunday, December 16, 2012

Start With the Children


Children adore animals.  Put a small child near a cute puppy and watch the child’s reaction.  Often it is one of unsurpassed delight.  There is no reason why they would not be enamored with animals.  From the moment a child takes a breath, toys, books, and movies that emphasize the bond that exists with the creatures in the world around them surround them.  Therefore, if we hope to have responsible and compassionate adults, we need to start with the children and it is never too early to begin.

Pets are a part of many childrens’ lives.  While there are all types of pets that can generate joy in children, it is important to choose one that will not only fit well into the lifestyle of the family but, more importantly, that it is one that the child can actively help care for. 

Very young children are unable to care for a large animal on their own; therefore, they should be supervised with pets at all times.  In addition, parents must oversee the pet's care even if they believe their child is old enough to care for it.  If children become negligent in providing the basics of food, water, and exercise for pets, parents need to take over the responsibility.  Parents are role models, and responsible pet ownership is often learned by observing good parental behavior.

It has been proven that there are many benefits to raising children with pets.  A child's self-esteem and self-confidence can be boosted.  Children are constantly being evaluated, whether it is for behavior, grades, or general performance.  Pets do not evaluate.  They give children a sense of unconditional acceptance.

Improvement in non-verbal communication skills can increase.  The subtle signals pets give regarding their feelings and needs are observed.  These experiences can later be applied to human relationships.  The child has learned a valuable communication lesson based on awareness of body posture and behavior.

Compassion may also be learned.  Children often become curious about the emotions pets might feel.  This curiosity and the understanding of actions with resultant behaviors can have significant impact on future interactions with others. 

When children are exposed to routine veterinarian exams, treatments for illnesses, and the demise of a beloved pet, it helps prepare them for adult life situations.  Children can also learn the significance of taking care of themselves.  When they understand the importance of taking care of a pet and keeping him healthy, they will often apply the same principles to themselves.  For example, if routine check-ups are essential to their pet’s health, then it must also be important for the child.

In addition, pets can be used for therapy with children who have learning disabilities or difficult home situations.  Children who are traumatized in their lives often manage better when they have a pet to confide in.  They can talk to and share their feelings with them, for they are the safe recipient of secrets and private thoughts. 

Learning respect toward animals for most children is part of learning to function successfully in society.  However, if it is discovered that a child is repeatedly being cruel or derives pleasure in causing pain to animals, it is an early warning sign that requires quick professional intervention to help in preventing the behavior from escalating as the child becomes an adult.

Pet ownership can be a richly rewarding and positive experience for both child and parent.  Children who learn to care for animals, and treat them kindly, can obtain invaluable preparation in learning how to treat their other fellow members of society.    


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