While we have accepted that stress is a part of adult life since long ago, stress in childhood is usually mentioned when it is necessary to point out difficult experiences children are exposed to, e.g. in a crisis. Adults often think that experiences children are exposed to are not so important. However, in the course of their growth, children and youth are exposed to various stressors: injuries, difficult separations, losses, disturbing events in the family and at school and other things.
The majority of children want a pet and such a need should not be neglected. Habits and obligations of the family and the family conditions, as well as the natural needs of the chosen pet should be considered in the process of making a decision to take a pet.
Making prudent decisions
Parents should be aware that, no matter how much their children may verbalise their wish to take care of the pet, the main load of care and responsibility for the pet will have to be taken by the adult members of the family, which may last for several years, depending on the kind of the pet. With dogs and cats it may last for more than a decade. The decision to take a pet into your family should not be made without due consideration. Think twice and talk with all family members about the readiness and conditions which you, as a family, may offer, about the necessary changes and compromises, like, for example, walking the dog after work/school, travelling, holidays and similar.
Child’s age is important when choosing a pet. Most experts advise against taking a pet before the child is in his/her sixth year of age. Parents should be aware that, regardless of how well they know both their child and their pet, an older child, and especially a young child should not be left alone with the pet. However the pet may be close to your heart, it is still an animal with all the characteristics of the species to which it belongs.
The lonely child and a pet
Pets may be very beneficial for the child and for the whole family. Caring for food, walking the animal and caring for it teaches children responsibility and creates work habits. Life with the pet teaches children about life, birth, sickness and death. It teaches them to share and empathise. Children learn to recognise subtle signals of others’ feelings through their relationship with the pet, which helps them in the development of understanding and of their emphatic capacity. Pets are unconditionally loyal and excited by every sign of attention. They do not have any expectations from children and thus give them a feeling of being unconditionally and non-judgementally accepted. Such a relationship helps children develop self-confidence and self-esteem. Lonely children will be less lonely in the relationship with their pet. Still, the pet cannot be children’s toy.
Life with the pet teaches children about life, birth, sickness and death. It teaches them to share and empathise. Children learn to recognise subtle signals of others’ feelings through their relationship with the pet, which helps them in the development of understanding and of their emphatic capacity.