LETTING YOUR CHILD KEEP A PET CAN BE A PAIN BUT MANY TIMES THE PROS OUTWEIGH THE CONS
By Anna Tham
MOST children love animals. From the time they start recognising things, we tend to point out to them animals we often see like the lizard on the wall, a stray cat or dog on the road, chickens, birds, and fish.
As parents, we feel good that our children take an interest in nature and are curious about the animal world. On the other hand, when they start asking to keep a pet, that's when our nightmare begins!
I've done time (and still 'am ) in 'assisting' my little pet owner in caring for her pets, simply because she is still too young to carry out some of the responsibilities involved in pet rearing.
So far, we have had fish and terrapins and they have been manageable.
My little pet owner normally starts with great interest in ensuring they are fed, sometimes too well-fed in fact! .
As for keeping them clean, she would alert us that the tank needs a change of water and happily assists in removing its inhabitants to a temporary container.
A few months down the road, she starts to forget to feed them, and neglect sets in while she moves on to other interests.
Lately, she has developed a keen interest in dogs and -has been hounding us to get one. Now, a dog takes pet-keeping to a whole new level as it is more demanding of care and attention.
As we currently live in a condominium, we have managed to help her understand that a dog is not possible for now. We have also pointed out repeatedly the responsibility one must take when committing to a pet
It was an opportunity for us to teach her the meaning of responsibility, commitment and caring for others, be it animals or people.
According to ParentGuide.com, parental involvement, open discussion, and planning are usually necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone.
It says that "a child who learns to care for an animal and treat it kindly and patiently, gets invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and the child involved".
The choice of a pet is also important. We need to make sure that the animal is suitable for the family, home and lifestyle. If you have young children or babies especially, be sure that the pet is child-friendly, not aggressive, and easy to manage in terms of hygiene.
For example, if your child, like mine, has allergies, you would then need to ensure that the pet you get would not affect her condition.
And if you are pregnant, be careful if you keep cats. Handle their litter with care as cats' faeces could carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. This infection is not serious for you but could be dangerous for your developing baby.
Keeping pets is a healthy and educational activity and a great experience for both children and parents.
Children's social skills can be developed as they gain self-esteem and self-¬confidence, and develop compassion, trust and empathy. Their hands-on experience with nature will teach them responsibilities towards other creatures.
At the same time, they will learn about life cycles, reproduction, and animal health.
And when a pet they love is lost or dies, it is an experience and lesson about loss, death and bereavement.
Bringing up children
Tuesday, May 20, 2008