It is a well-known fact that ‘Kids are like sponges.’ They absorb everything that takes place around them. This points towards a very important aspect of children’s development. Besides, early childhood plays the most crucial role in shaping a child’s long-term personality. The good traits that they learn during this stage will become engrained in their personality, and what can be better than teaching them to be responsible and empathetic in this chaotic world.
If you think about it, nothing beats owning a pet when it comes to the development of care, love, responsibility, compassion, and empathy in a child. It is the purest and the most unconditional form of love that a child can experience from a young age. This is because your child will not have the incentive to care for their pet out of hunger for a reward or appreciation. On the contrary, they will do so unconditionally out of pure love and compassion.
Apart from the emotional development, the much-needed physical exertion that becomes a part of the toddler’s life because of owning a pet is astounding. They love playing outdoors with their furry friend and love taking them out for walks. What is more astonishing is what research depicts! According to the Journal of Paediatrics, children who have been exposed to pets during their first year have a much higher immune response and a whopping 31% lesser respiratory tract infections compared to other children.
However, all these benefits occur once the pet and the kid has bonded, which can be tough for some parents. Whether a newborn baby is being introduced in a house with an older pet, or a tiny pet is being brought into a house with slightly older children, the initial bonding part can prove to be a little tough.
We are here to help you out in the process and make it easy peasy lemon squeezy for you all. Here is what you can do to help your kids and pets’ bond in the best way ever:
1. Accompany Your Children to Interact with Pets
Never leave your children alone with your pets, we say dogs and cats. You should pay attention to every interaction between your children and pets. You don’t know what they will do behind you. In this precious time, try to teach your children to play with your pets gently, give your children exclusive toys to play with pets together.
2. Set Clear Limits for Your Children
Children are prone to being a little harsh with pets. They will want to grab the pet by its fur or skin or sit or lie over the pet. Moreover, children always imitate the behavior of their parents with pets. Therefore, always make sure that whenever your pet is being naughty, your intervention is always reward-based and never force-based.
Set boundaries for your children and tell them what they can do with the pets and what they can’t do. For example, if your cat is on a countertop that she is not allowed to be on, or if your dog is stealing snacks, your child should immediately let you know and not handle the situation on his or her own. This will help prevent any circumstances that would lead your child to be bitten or scratched and prevent the build-up of any negative associations.
3. Involve Your Children in Every Aspect of Decision Making
It is paramount to have your kids involved in everything related to your pet’s life from the very start. However, this must be done strictly under parental supervision and not be entirely left on the child. For example, you can ask your child to determine the color of dog toys, assist you in feeding your pet, taking your dog out for a walk to poop, or cleaning your cat’s litter, etc. This will train your child to be responsible, as well as capable enough to perform basic functions for their pets.
Taking care of pets in such a way will automatically help them develop a positive bond with them. On the other hand, when pets witness the child contacting their parents in this way, they will automatically assume him or her being an authority figure too.
However, it is very important to give children more responsibility to have children and pets go through the transition smoothly.
4. Actively Supervise Body Language of Your Children and Pets
When your child is interacting with pets, you’d better keep a track of their body language. This will help you prevent a lot of potential problems that can arise in the future. For this, it is important to have knowledge about your pets’ gestures when they are feeling aggressive or anxious.
For example, if your child is trying to pet your dog but it has its tail tucked or is ducking its head or leaning away from the child, it is a time to intervene and ask your child to stop petting the dog. Similarly, if a cat is fidgeting while being petted, or is dodging the child’s hands, or swishing its tail left and right in stress, this means the cat is anxious and does not feel snuggly.
In addition to this, it is a great idea to teach your kids and make them aware of how a pet uses their facial expressions, tail movement, and ears to express their emotions and what is the meaning of each gesture.
5. Keep Private Time a Priority for Your Children and Pets
Just like humans need a getaway space to recharge and reset, pets do too. You must have space in your house like a crate, box, etc. The pet knows no one will disturb them here. Then, train your pet to escape to their quiet corner whenever they feel overwhelmed. More importantly, your children will know the pet cannot be disturbed or petted when it is in its safe space. They can play with the pet when it comes out on its own.
Similarly, children can also feel irritable and not want to play even when the pet is in a snuggly mood. Therefore, it is important to have a pet-free space for your children in your home. They can eat or play without being disturbed by pets here.
These are small but very crucial things that will help children and pets develop positive bonds in the longer run.
6. Always Intervene when the Situation is Stressful for your Pet
No matter how tolerant your pet dog or cat is, one can never fully predict the behavior of canines. Hence, when your child is grabbing the pet’s tail or pulling its ears, it is necessary to intervene. Because these things make your pets feel stressed they lunge or scratch your children, even bite them. Your timely intervention is important to prevent the unpredictable side of your pet from coming forward.
Surrounding your children with pets is the best thing you can do for them. They will help your kids learn compassion, responsibility, and empathy. Not only this, but pets can also help children focus more on outdoors than on screen time and develop social skills from a very young age. All you have to do is follow some simple tips and tricks mentioned above, and then be ready for your child to develop the best memories of his childhood with his furry four-legged bestie.