4 things parents should do to help kids bond with their pets

This week’s guest blogger is Andrej Kovacevic, a dedicated freelance writer and digital evangelist. He contributes to a wide range of home decor-focused publications, where he may be found discussing everything from smart home innovations to home decor trends. If there’s a new and exciting way to make your interior space stand out, there’s a good chance Andrej is writing about it somewhere out there!

As any parent knows, bonding with your children is a necessary and vital part of helping them develop into healthy, happy adults. What you may not know, however, is that there’s another kind of bond that can be just as valuable for your children: the bond between your kids and their pets. How valuable, you ask?

A thorough review of the available research concluded that among other things, kids who grow up with pets tend to have higher self-esteem, better cognitive development, and sharper social skills. In short, your family dog isn’t just another adorable face – it’s also helping your child develop in ways you probably never even considered.

To get those benefits, however, parents need to create the right kind of environment for their kids to bond with the family pets. If you don’t, your kids won’t learn very much from the experience, and may even develop some bad habits from it (like tail-pulling and the like). To help your kids build a bond with their pets that helps them grow and fosters healthy development, here are the four things that you, as a parent, need to do.

Kids and pets - Girl and dog

1. Set the right example

To get things between your kids and pets off to the right start, you have to be ready to set the right example for your child when handling the family pets. That means demonstrating how your child can pet and touch the animal without causing any discomfort, and teaching them to understand the animal’s body language to detect when it might be time to leave them alone. It’s also important to remember that you’re setting an example for your pets, as well. That means avoiding any behaviour (like roughhousing or aggressive play) that the pet may then try to repeat with your child. This is especially important if your pet happens to be a puppy since they naturally like to play rough and don’t yet know how to avoid hurting you with their sharp baby teeth.

Kids and pets - Girl and puppy

2. Handle discipline yourself

Anyone who has had a pet can tell you that it’s inevitable that they’re going to do things like snatch food from an unguarded table, or get into places where they aren’t allowed to go. When you introduce children into the mix, you have to be extra vigilant about those transgressions and make sure that you are the one who handles disciplining the animal. To keep your child’s interactions with the pet safe and positive, you should teach them to alert you when the animal does something wrong, rather than trying to intervene themselves. Remember, dogs and cats don’t always know the difference between their own toys and your child’s toys, so it’s up to you to maintain order and prevent any conflicts.

3. Create a child-free zone

Pets, like people, tend to be social creatures. That doesn’t mean, though, that they always want to play or be carried around by your child. That’s why it’s important to create a child-free zone for your pets to retreat to when they’re feeling stressed or exhausted. For dogs, this is best accomplished with a crate or other enclosed space, and for cats, a high shelf that’s out of your child’s reach is best. Make sure to put the pet’s name on their retreat area and teach your child that when the pet is in their space, they are to be left alone. If possible, you should even set aside space where your child can get away from the pets, too. Then, they’ll understand that playtime is a two-way street that requires both their consent and the consent of the pet. Creating such boundaries will keep your child’s interactions with the pets as stress-free as possible – for all involved.

Kids and pets - Boy and dog

4. Keep your pets clean and healthy

For most pet owners, seeing to their animal’s health and grooming is second nature. For busy parents, however, it’s easy to let pet care routines slip without realising it. That can spell disaster in your home since even domesticated pets can carry diseases or spread infection if you’re not careful. To make sure that doesn’t happen, set aside time to see to your pets’ needs and keep them up-to-date on all vaccinations and other required care. You can even take online animal care courses that can teach you how to properly groom your pet to make sure you’re doing what’s best for them and your child.

Spread the love

Now that you know what it takes to create the right environment for your kids and pets to bond, you get to experience the best part of the whole process: seeing and feeling the love that will develop between them. As a pet owner, there’s a good chance that you already know what that feels like, but if you’re a new parent and have never seen the way a child’s eyes light up when their beloved pet is around – get ready for your heart to melt on a regular basis. Once that happens, you can join the legions of people posting adorable “kids with pets” videos on every social media site, and you’ll finally know why that is such a popular pastime everywhere in the world.

Kids and pets - Kitten and children