Children can benefit from having a pet in the house, and pets can add a layer of joy to the family.
However, it’s important to be realistic when you consider to what degree your child will be involved in the pet’s care.
As much as we’d like to have our kids take over pet care, we need to understand that children younger than about age twelve simply don’t have the mental and physical ability to fully care for a pet on their own. They have good intentions, and a lot of love, but when it comes to daily care, it’s an enormous responsibility that a child can grow into over time. If you accept that you will have to be the hands-on manager and that your child will take over the pet care, little by little, as he gets older, you can all enjoy the benefits of having a family pet.
The Pet Care Chart: With your help, have your child create a pet care chart. List everything that needs to be done on two separate lists, a daily list, and weekly list. Copy the lists neatly on a large piece of poster board. Hang the poster in a conspicuous place, such as in the kitchen. The chart serves two purposes. It gives your child a written “to do” list so that everything is remembered, and it provides the basis for developing a habit.
Create routines: Tie pet care chores to other daily rituals to make them easier to remember. For example, feed the pet right after dinner. That way, you can easily remind a child by saying, “We ate, not the dog needs to eat, too”
Be a patient teacher and coach: Your child will need many reminders to complete pet care chores – that’s normal. Be patient, persistent and pleasant.
Elizabeth Pantley is the author of the bestselling book The No-Cry Sleep Solution and 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution series, which helps moms and dads through all key stages of parenting. http://nocrysolution.com