4 Invaluable Life Lesson Kids Can Learn From Their Pets


Your kids are lobbying for a family pet and you’re ready to say yes. The great news is that beyond just putting smiles on their little faces, pet ownership can teach your children valuable life lessons. But let’s be honest, despite the extra work a pet creates for you, those grins are almost reason enough. Here are four lessons a family pet can teach your kids.

1. Responsibility

As you learned the minute you first held your baby in your arms, caring for another living creature is a huge responsibility. Having a pet who needs to be fed, exercised, groomed, cleaned and played with daily will give your children plenty of chances to take on responsibility. Before you commit to pet ownership, sit down with your kids and talk about all of the chores involved in pet care and what supplies you will need to budget for and buy. Help them think through what pieces they are willing to take on. If you get a cat, perhaps one kid will agree to clean the cat litter box, while the other will be responsible for morning feedings. Whatever the arrangement, allow them to be a part of the decision making, ensure their responsibilities are age appropriate and make sense with their schedules.​

2. Healthy Habits

Involving your kids in the feeding, grooming and exercising of pets can teach them about the importance of those things for themselves. Talk with your kids about the animal’s diet and how that correlates to their own dietary needs. Show your kids why their pet needs brushing and a bath to stay healthy just like they do. Involve your kids in the pet’s exercise to not only get them moving themselves, but teach them that movement is necessary and fun.

3. Self-Esteem and Social Skills

A study from the Institute of Infection and Global Health found that children with pets have greater self-esteem. Pets are non-judging companions for kids and often become a child’s confidante. The unconditional love from a pet, coupled with the pride that comes from caring for another, can help build your children’s self-worth. The same study found that kids with pets have greater social skills. The study showed that children who have pets have an increased social competence, a stronger social network, better social interaction and social play behavior. Basically, owning a pet will both give your children the skills to play better with others and a common talking point with other kids (e.g., “Hey, that’s a cool dog, can I pet him?”).

4. Bereavement

Although not a happy thought, learning about loss and grieving through the death of a pet can be a valuable lesson for kids. The reality is that most pets have a relatively short lifespan, and so death is a possibility. Helping your children cope with their grief productively will provide them with skills to deal with loss and pain in the future.

Yes, having a pet will add a bit more chaos to your already busy life, but a family pet will also teach your kids some truly invaluable life lessons like responsibility, healthy habits, increased self-esteem and social skills and how to deal with loss. Those lessons, plus those sweet smiles, make getting a family pet totally worth it.

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