It goes without saying that families love their pets for their wagging welcomes and late-night cuddles. But, there’s another benefit: helping children to develop responsibility.
“Along with appropriate parent or caregiver supervision and role modeling, learning to care for a pet is a great way for children to develop responsibility, social skills and self-confidence,” according to Liz Varley, DNP, from Samaritan Lebanon Health Center, where she provides primary care services for people of all ages.
In addition to companionship, having a pet can provide opportunities to teach your children about responsibility. But when and what pet responsibilities can your child handle?
Toddlers will likely have immense curiosity surrounding the family pet and may want to “help.” Let them help with simple tasks such as scooping dry food into a bowl or tossing a ball in the backyard to help exercise your dog. While these tasks can offer a sense of independence, it’s important that children in this age range and younger always have adult supervision around animals.
Children of elementary school age can take on greater responsibilities such as feedings, cleaning cages, putting away pet toys, and everyone’s favorite, emptying and cleaning the litter box. However, be sure to remind your child of proper hygiene after completing their pet responsibilities.
As your child enters their teenage years, you can add walking the dog to their list of chores — assuming they can maintain safe control — or baking healthy treats for your four-legged family members.
Looking for a pediatrician or family medicine provider? Visit samhealth.org/FindADoc or call 800-863-5241.