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Friday 11 December 2020

Our pets and the kids who get to love them


We had many different pets growing up including dogs, birds and chickens. We loved our animals and it was a great way for us to learn about responsibility, respecting all living things and the important role we play in the environment and society. Looking back, I realize that they were also very educational and helped us learn about their lifecycles from birth to death. As a parent, I wanted this same special learning experience for our children.


I believe that having pets around contributed to the development of our self-esteem, as we were responsible for these living creatures that were completely reliant on our kindness, compassion and care. We had to take care of them, fend for them and make decisions based on what we believed was the best for our animals. For example, although our dogs generally slept outside, on cold winter nights we would bring them in to sleep in the kitchen. And in preparation for winter we would fence off an area for our chickens to help keep them warm. Having pets also challenged our cognitive abilities. As we observed our pets, we developed the need to learn more, which forced us to do research and gave us the opportunity to interact with others who had similar pets. We experienced their lifecycles first hand and learned to compare this with the lifecycles of other animals. Even our social skills benefited as we shared our pets’ milestone achievements and talked about their adventures with others.

Having pets definitely also reduces stress and anxiety. As we stroke them, bath them, chat to them or take them for walks, we feel less alone and isolated with our pet companions. I have found that children find great comfort in pets and will confide in them regarding their worries, fears and needs. And I have also seen that children who are scared to talk or read in front of others, develop their confidence through practicing their oral or reading to their animals.

Decision making

There are a number of things to take into consideration before choosing a pet for your child. Do consider your child’s age and what kind of pet will be a good match for your child as well as the rest of your family unit. Parents have to commit to being involved right from the start, as you are your child’s primary role model. They will learn how to be caring and patient from watching your interactions with your pets. I recommend that you make time even before your new pet arrives, to sit down with your child, have a discussion and create a plan together that takes your child’s age and developmental level into consideration. Although you as their parent are ultimately responsible for your child’s pet, with your guidance, a lot of patience and consistent gentle reminders, your child will grow in their love for and understanding of their new pet and can gradually start taking over more of the care taking responsibilities.

Our experience

We recently adopted a bunny, who our boys have named Charlie. Charlie has made a very special connection with our youngest son. She is learning to trust him and in doing so is also teaching him the importance of trust. I watch him learning about loyalty, affection, and love as he holds Charlie and gently strokes her fur. He is clearly finding great comfort in connecting with her. We have realized that since we have had Charlie, he seems to be less emotional and more relaxed.

Having pets or other animals around evidently has healing properties. When we interact with them we are for a moment transported away from our other worries and problems, to a place where we can experience tranquility and enjoy their acceptance of us, just the way we are. Our animal friends quickly become part of our family and are our children too.

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