Tuesday, August 29, 2006

5 Reasons to Let your Kids get a Pet

By Brandi M. Seals

Getting a pet may seem like the last thing you want and the only thing your kids want. At some point or another just about every child decides he or she would love a pet. While a pet may not be on the top of your list of things to have, perhaps getting one would not be so bad.

The following are five very real reasons a pet may be beneficial for you and your child.

1.) Pets Teach Responsibility
If you get a pet when your child is old enough to help out, the experience will greatly help teach responsibility. If you have a dog, your child can feed, water, and let the dog out to use the bathroom. Just be sure to keep an eye on the situation. Children can often forget to do stuff. Make sure Fido has the food and water he needs daily. If your child forgets to feed or water the dog, do not take over for him or her. Remind your child of her daily duties and that Fido's life depends on her. There may be some resistance to this new found responsibility but with time your child will begin to grow accustomed to these additional demands.

2.) Pets Are Great Best Friends
Children in one-child households are often left to their own devises to entertain themselves. They can get lonely and may need a friend, just like any other child who does not immediately identify with his or her siblings. A pet can be like a built in friend for anyone. Children can tell their secrets to their pet, spend time with it and otherwise bond with the pet. If a child identifies with a good friend or pet, he is less likely to give into peer pressure, will be more willing to stand up for himself and most likely will not tolerate cruelty to any animals.

3.) Pets Teach Kids about the Cycle of Life
Most pets, as loveable and cute as they are, do not live as long as humans. Inevitably they die. While you may think that is traumatic for children to deal with, life and death are part of life. They will need to learn about the concept of death at some point. If you hide death from them, by saying that their favorite pet just suddenly ran away or by constantly replacing a dead fluffy with an identical gerbil, the child may actually be more upset when they find out the truth. Simply explain that Fluffy's body is still here but her spirit (what makes her Fluffy) has died. You can tell your child about your beliefs about death or go with the tried and true - "she's in a better place now."

4.) Pets Offer Health Benefits
Generally the health benefits of owning a pet are only discussed in reference to the elderly or the disabled, but the benefits of owning a pet are felt by all pet owners. Just by owning a pet one's blood pressure can lower and triglycerides and cholesterol levels can decrease. In a day and age where children are becoming increasingly overweight, they can have these increased levels that were previously only routinely associated with adults.

5.) Pets Allow for Increased Activity
Sometimes it is hard to get children up and moving. A pet, especially a dog, cat, or ferret can get children moving. They can play together. Toss a ball around. And otherwise just get moving. Your child and pet may spend time outdoors or indoors together. The increased activity may help children stay toned and maintain a healthy weight.

While this article mainly discusses the benefits of larger animals, smaller pets are also great for children. Hamsters, gerbils, snakes, lizards, and much more can all play an important role in your child's development. Get whatever fits you and your child's life. If you live in a small apartment that does not allow pets or are allergic to cat, do not limit yourself to the typical everyday pets. Investigate getting something more unusual like keeping and maintaining a salt water fish tank or sugar glider. However, do not get too creative. If you are terrified of snakes, think twice before you allow your son to get a corn snake. What are you going to do if it gets out?

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