Children and Pets,
By Al Sinden
If you’re thinking of getting rid of your pet because you’re expecting a baby, please think again. Pets can be an important part of a baby’s first years. Children can form deep bonds with pets that provide many enriched experiences that enhance their growth and development.
Emotional & Physical
Pets provide a touchable, huggable warm living body to cling to in times of physical or emotional pain. In times of family upheaval such as divorce, sickness, death, or even job loss, children need that extra comfort of a warm, affectionate body.
Adults tend to concentrate on the immediate problem. Children are often unwitting sufferers as the adults around them go through major life adjustments. They fail to recognize that children, even babies, are very aware of the emotional atmosphere around them. The presence of a much-loved pet provides a safe and secure place for the child to feel their own emotional distress without further disturbing the already distracted adults.
As they grow, children develop personal responsibility by learning to properly interact with, feed and care for pets. They learn that animals, like people, can be irritable when they don’t feel good. Children learn the value of being gentle at those times.
Supervise child-pet interactions to assure neither child or pet is injured or mistreated in any way if your child is under age three. (If you’ve ever had tiny, exploring fingers remove a hunk of your hair, or lodged painfully in your eye, ear or nose, you’ll understand that tiny fingers can easily cause pain and discomfort!)
Pets can teach children how to play and romp, then take time out for a rest. Children can learn how to laugh as they play with their animals.
Running and playing is good exercise for both pet and child (it’s good for adults, too).
Children and pets go together very naturally and can help teach many of life’s lessons. The only time you should consider getting rid of a pet is if a slightly older child consistently causes deliberate pain or injury to a pet. Then, for the sake of the pet, get it out of harm’s way and IMMEDIATELY get long-term help for the child.