When Is My Kid Developmentally Ready to Care for a Pet?

When Is My Kid Developmentally Ready to Care for a Pet?

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Pets are THE BEST! And here’s why!

Check it out- Answers to the top 4 questions asked by parents who are considering purchasing a pet for their child! 

photo of man hugging tan dog

1) Why are Pets Good for Kids?

They are fun, cute, lovable… but more then that, they teach great life lessons, including:

  • Responsibility
  • Consistency
  • Working hard even when it’s not fun
  • Being selfless
  • How to be aware of another being’s needs
  • Planning ahead for vacations or other unique circumstances
  • Lots of practical skills- cleaning up, feeding, watering, grooming
  • How to love without holding back!

Having pets is a great beginner’s experience to the responsibility and work that it takes to have a family. Your child is learning skills that will help them when they become a mom or a dad someday!

Besides these great life lessons, there are lots of opportunities for parents to talk about  daunting subjects.

  • Pets pass away. This opens the door to talk about death.
  • Pets get frisky. This opens the door to talk about sex.
  • Pets get pregnant. This opens the door to talk about birth, nursing, and other baby topics.

blue parakeet on hand

2) Am I Ready for Pets?

Of course, we all know that caring for pets isn’t easy!

Before you purchase a pet, consider the following factors:

  • Finances

Some pets are cheaper than others. Don’t just look at the price tag to purchase the animal itself. You should also look at:

  1. Food: Make sure you know what to feed your pet at various stages of life. The food a pet needs can change over time (which in turn can affect the $$$).
  2. Supplies: You know, like dishes, leashes, collars, litter boxes, filters and tanks for fish, etc.
  3. Cage/Shelter: All animals need some sort of shelter. This could include a cage, a tank, a doghouse, bedding, etc. For example, rabbits do well with sawdust in the bottom of their cage, but it must be replaced every few days. This is an extra expense that should be planned for.
  4. Toys: Toys aren’t just for fun. They also provide vital stimulating experiences to keep animals’ brains sharp. Toys are also a great way for the animal to bond with you!
  5. Education/Training: Many families pay to have their pets trained. Others pay to learn how to train animals themselves. Some attend classes with the pet so that they can learn valuable skills to implement at home.
  6. Medical Expenses: All animals need medical care from time to time. Pets, like humans, get regular checkups to make sure they are healthy. Each family will need to consider if they would like to pay to have your animal spayed or neutered, or risk the expense of a pregnancy.
  7. Grooming: If your pet sheds, you won’t have to pay to get his hair cut. If your pet is hypoallergenic, it’s likely that the animal has hair instead of fur, like a human. That means he’ll need frequent hair cuts.
  • Time

Do you have the time necessary to devote to a pet?

Different species and breeds require different time input from their owner.

Consider the following time-consuming aspects of pet care:

  1. Training: Training a pet can take years. Some owners choose to purchase animals that are older and have already been trained in order to avoid the time devotion to training a young animal. Other pet owners prefer to train the animal themselves so that they can teach the animal to behave in a way that fits the needs of the family.
  2. Exercise: Exercise is a constant part of owning a pet. It’s important to make sure your pet is exercising- don’t assume they are exercising themselves. This could mean going for walks, playing with your pet, and providing adequate space for your animal to move around.
  3. Grooming: Some animals needs more time to groom than others. Animals that shed might need less grooming, just a bath here and there. Some animals will need their hair cut regularly. It’s up to you if you want to cut your pet’s hair yourself or take him to a groomer.
  4. Medical Needs: Consider if your pet’s species and/or breed requires more medical assistance. If so, this could require more frequent trips to the vet for checkups.
  5. Physical Care: This is the nuts and bolts of daily life with a pet. Some pets will need to go outside for the bathroom, some will require clean up (like cleaning a tank or a litter box), all will need food and water every day.

Do you have time to take care of all these needs? Consider your work life, your family life, your social life and honestly consider if a pet fits into your schedule.

 

  • Medical Needs

As we’ve mentioned before, be aware of your pet’s species and breed. Some animals require more frequent medical intervention.

Can you afford frequent visits to the vet? Make sure you know the answer before your pet is sick or injured.

Need more information about medical needs for your pet? Check out a great resource What Does a Veterinary Technician Do? 

two short-coated brown and black dogs playing

  • Training

Would it be best for your family to find an older pet that is already trained?

Would it be best to train a pet yourself so that the animal is used to your home’s unique rules?

In either case, consider in advance what good and bad habits are deal breakers for your family.

  1. Potty Training: Does the animal need to know how to use a litter box or a doggy door?
  2. Behavioral Training: Does the animal jump on people? Does the animal know where “home” is? Does the animal bark, or lick, or sit on the couches, or respond to commands?
  3. How the Animal Responds to Strangers: Do you want the animal to guard your house, or welcome visitors to the door?
  4. How the Animal Responds to Other Animals: Should your pet avoid other animals, chase them away, or be friendly?
  5. Bad Habits: Are you ok with an animal that chews on things? That digs? That barks? What if the animal bites or scratches?
  • Personality

Even within breeds, there are no two animals that are exactly the same. It’s up to the family to choose the perfect pet that fits their personality.

A family with rambunctious kids might not be well suited to a lazy dog.

A family with loving, cuddly kids might not be well suited to a grouchy cat.

  • Space

How much room does the animal need?

Can this particular species and breed live comfortably in an apartment complex, or will they need a large yard to run in?

Can this dog or cat live a happy life indoors, or will they need to be outside?

Can this animal live in my climate comfortably? Is it too hot or too cold for him?

  • Long-term Commitment

In short, the question shouldn’t just be “Is this pet a good fit for me?” but ALSO “Am I a good fit for this pet?”

Once you purchase an animal, you’ve taken on a HUGE responsibility to love, care for, and accommodate for that animal’s needs. Make sure you’re ready before you take the plunge.

boy hugging fawn pug puppy

3) When Is My Child Ready to Care for the Pets?

That depends on his age and development…. But also on your child’s personality. Some children are naturally caring and do very well looking after a pet. Others need a lot more coaching.

Be aware of your child’s individual needs, but here are some typical developmental guidelines of parent/child involvement in caring for pets: 

  • 0-3 Years Old

At this age, the parent is doing all the work.

Young kids still enjoy being around pets. Their sweet hearts are full of love for pets.

Watch out for a few key things with this age group.

  1. Make sure the child and the pet are safe around each other. You don’t want a young child pulling on a dog’s tail, or a dog biting a child.
  2. Make sure the pet’s food is out of the child’s reach. This is easier said than done, but it’s important. Pet food isn’t always safe for human consumption.
  • 3-6 Years Old

As children get older, they develop new skills and capabilities that allow them to help out a little more.

In this age range, start involving your child more in the process of caring for the pet.

Your child will likely need one-on-one help from you. They can put food in the bowl, fill water dishes, and help with cleaning up after the pet.

  • 7-10 Years Old

This is a magical age where kids gain a little more independence.

Instead of mom and dad constantly monitoring the process of caring for the pet, mom and dad can give instructions and let the child carry them out on his own.

Wooo hooo!

  • 11-13 Years Old

Pre-adolescence brings even more freedom for mom and dad.

The child is able to complete all the chores required to care for a pet. The parent’s primary responsibility is to guide the child toward creating their own routine of pet care.

That means:

  1. Withhold your help. Sometimes it’s tempting as parents to step in and fix problems, but kids at this age are able to think through solutions on their own.
  2. Offer guidance when asked. Try to wait until the child approaches you, unless it’s in the pet’s best interest for you to intervene earlier.
  3. Let the child develop and carry out their own routine. Does the child prefer to feed the animals an hour later than you typically do? If it’s safe for the pet, try to let your child create a routine that works for him.
  4. Don’t let the child neglect the animal! Although the child is taking on more responsibility, be aware that they are still learning! It’s possible that the child could accidentally forget to feed the pet one day, or forget to fill the water dish. Don’t let the animal suffer, and make sure to teach the child so that they can be better in the future.
  • 14-18 Years Old

Ahhhhh, finally, parents can kick back and relax!

Your child should be fully capable of caring for a pet 100% independently.

As always, keep an eye out to make sure that the child is keeping up with his responsibilities. After all, you wouldn’t want the pet to suffer if the child slacked off.

shallow focus photography of brown and white guinea pig

4) What Kind of Pet Should I get… For A Beginner??

Are you interested in having a pet, but not sure what animal is best for your family?

Try one of these awesome beginner pets!

  1. Beta Fish: Betas need little care, as they are one of the few fish that can breathe air from the surface of the water rather than having oxygen circulated through the water. No need for fancy tanks and equipment! All you’ll need to do is feed the fish and change his water every week or two to make sure he has a nice clean environment.
  2. Tortoise: Tortoises live in dry, warm environments. A tank with dirt in the bottom will do. A tortoise needs a heat lamp, fresh water to drink, and food (usually lettuce or frozen veggies). You can touch, hold, and pet a tortoise- just make sure to wash your hands!
  3. Cat: Cats are great first pets because they are self-sufficient in taking care of their own potty needs and rarely require much training. You’ll need to supply a litter box (which will need cleaned regularly), food, water, and toys.
  4. Hamster, Rat, Mouse, or Guinea Pig: Rodents can make fun and interactive pets. They will need a cage with lots of stimulating toys and obstacles to climb. Obviously, they will need food and water.
  5. Hermit Crab: Hermit crabs are very low-key. You will need to purchase a tank with sand in the bottom. The crab will need food and water as well as some kind of shelter. As the crab grows, he will need bigger shells to move into.
  6. Dog: Dogs are a lot of fun, but a little more complex to discuss. Check out this amazing resource at The Spruce Pets called Best Dogs for First Time Owners!

Are you ready? Let’s go get a pet!!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

 

Who is Mrs. S… and why do people call you that? 

It’s my favorite nickname! That’s what all my students call me!

I’ve been around the block a time or two. I’ve worked with children from ages 0-18, some with mental illness, some with disabilities, some with Autism, and many with behavioral problems.

I also worked as a parent educator!

All that doesn’t hold a candle to my best experience with children- being a mom. Want to learn more about me? Click here! 

 

Need some time to yourself?

Check out this FREE Parent’s Guide to Self-Care to help you decompress and feel right with the world again!

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What is a "Good Parent?" Comfort and Advice for First Time Moms

What is a “Good Parent”? Comfort and Advice for First Time Moms

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Photo by Joey Thompson on Unsplash

This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

The leap into parenthood is stressful.

I know, understatement of the year.

But seriously. You’re expected to have EVERYTHING all put together BEFORE the baby even arrives! Preferably before you even get pregnant.

The pressure is enormous.

Let’s list all the things that people SAY you should have or BE (even more pressure!) in order to be considered a “good parent”:

  • Your basic picture-perfect adult-ness: responsible, serious, wise, informed, patient, humble, careful, secure, all put together… You know, like in a stiff 90’s family portrait.
  • A job, wait, no…. A Career!!!
  • Education. The more degrees and certifications the better. Oh, but no debt for that education. That’s got to be paid off. Yikes!
  • A house. But not just any house. You need the complete package- a yard for the kid to play in, every safety feature you could dream of, close to family, safe neighborhood, and in a good school district. And a white picket fence. Don’t forget that!
  • Obviously, health insurance for you and baby. Hospital bills can mess you up without insurance!
  • Physical health. This goes for dads and moms, but particularly for mom since she’s gotta carry that little bundle of joy around in her belly for 9 months.
  • Mental/emotional health. Cause, you know, this is a black and white, easily attainable thing that you can just pick up at the grocery store on your way home from work. NOT!
  • An extensive savings account for all the unexpected things that are going to pop up.
  • You better be on a wait list for a daycare and/or preschool. Now. Even if you’re not pregnant yet.
  • A thorough knowledge of:
    • pregnancy,
    • nursing,
    • labor and delivery,
    • caring for a newborn,
    • caring for a toddler,
    • when to make all the transitions in a child’s life,
    • and how to parent in general so that your little angel doesn’t turn into an outright brat.
    • And everything else that I forgot to mention that will pop up at some point during your lifetime as a parent. Start researching. GO!
  • Every new gadget that has been thought up to make life with a newborn or toddler slightly easier, which of course, takes $$$$$. Plan for several thousands of dollars.
  • A college savings account for the little one. Obviously, college expenses vary widely by area and college… Plan on something like $20,000-$50,000 for tuition, $1,000 dollars for books, $3,000 for housing, and $1,000 for other fees or random expenses. Per year. So multiply that by 4 years of school…. And keep in mind that some locations have higher living expenses…. My head hurts.
  • Various other savings accounts for the little one. Yes, this is a thing. Some options are trust funds, life insurance accounts, or stocks/bonds.
  • Money put away for the kid’s wedding. Weddings can cost up to $35,000! Yes, that’s one wedding. Were you planning to have more than one kid? Ouch…
  • A retirement account for the little one.

Ok, so I’m getting silly… But seriously it feels like you are going to have to pay for the kid’s entire life before their life even starts!

Click the image below!
Baby: Everything You Need to Consider Before Having a Child – Relationship, Finance, Pregnancy & Time Management (Baby Names, Baby Food, Child Nutrition, … Planning, First Time Mom, Mom Health)

Before I was a parent, I worried a lot about all the money involved.

How is anyone supposed to be able to afford this???

Honestly, I don’t think ANYONE can afford that whole list!

And that’s the point. People make becoming a mom or a dad way too hard! There aren’t any requirements. You don’t HAVE to meet this whole list in order to be a good parent.

The things on this list are all ideals. Most parents pick and choose a few of these things because they can’t do it all- but that doesn’t make them “bad parents.”

So what do you really HAVE to have (or be) in order to qualify as a “good parent?”

There’s only three bare necessities on this list.

1) Stability

gray and brown rocks

This is a tricky one because this is where the idea of needing a house, multiple savings accounts, education, a career, etc. comes from.

But the truth is that stability is different for each person because we all have different circumstances and needs.

Some people can barely get through college without starving. If you are barely affording food, maybe it’s not the right time for a child.

  • (Side note-If you are pregnant and living on a meager income, I know that you can make it work! You are amazing and strong. You can support this baby and give it a wonderful life! Just take it one step at a time, keep working hard, and don’t be afraid to ask for help/use resources available to you!!)

On the other hand, if you are waiting to feel completely unburdened by finances…. Well, unfortunately that day may never come.

Most people feel financial burdens for their whole life. It’s rare to make enough money or save enough of what you make to feel completely free of any money-stress.

Don’t make having children completely dependent on finances. You might never have children if you do.

flatlay photography of calculator between stack of banknote and click pen

Of course, a parent does have the responsibility to provide the basic necessities of life (food, water, shelter, clothing, safety). If there is any reason why you won’t be able to provide these things to a child, then work hard until you can.

Having a good, honest way to provide for your kids is an essential part of being a good parent.

Click the image below!
Finance Management Plan for Baby

2) A Basic Understanding

Every parent should educate themselves on the basics of parenting.

And I mean the very basics, not a Master’s Degree in Child Development.

Just simple things like:

  • How can I be healthy during pregnancy?
  • What birthing philosophies do I agree with?
  • What foods should children eat to be healthy?
  • What different philosophies of discipline and guidance to I agree with or disagree with?
  • What do I want my children to become and how can I get them there?
  • What do I value in my child’s education? Should I choose public, charter, or home school options?

Here is an amazing FREE resource to get you started on this educational journey:

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Receive your FREE Parent’s Guide to Children’s Misbehavior by clicking here!!!

Parents who lack basic knowledge tend to do whatever is easiest. I don’t blame them! That’s human nature. But, the easiest thing is rarely the best thing.

Unintentional parenting is like a ship with nobody to steer it. It will follow the flow of the tide. This is fine if the ship is in open waters, but if the ship is pushed towards shore, it will crash.

This is like reacting to parenting situations as they come rather than acting intentionally.

Parents should gain enough parenting knowledge to make educated decisions regarding their children.

brown wooden ship's wheel

Being an intentional parent is like a ship that has a captain and a crew to guide it. They have a destination in mind. As they sail, they are constantly checking their charts and maps to ensure that their course is steady and true. They make many small adjustments as they go to keep on their way. This takes constant vigilance and effort. Even though this route is more difficult, the end result is much better and safer and it gets them where they want to be.

This is the parent who teaches, guides, and motivates children rather than reacting. These children turn out to be responsible citizens and good people. 

Click the image below!

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

We’re Pregnant! The First Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook

Erin Condren Pregnancy Planner/Journal Bundle with Stickers (Includes Petite Planner w/Illustrative and Functional Stickers

3) Emotional Capacity

This is the most important thing for a parent to have, and weirdly, one of the most flexible things too.

Everyone have times of long-term struggles in their life. Some people struggle with emotional difficulty daily– such as depression and anxiety. You can still be a great mom!

The idea of being “a person who is always happy no matter what” is a dream, a fantasy. It’s not real. Nobody has that, and that’s ok.

I believe that everyone has something they can give to help the people around them, no matter their current struggles. It is not necessary to have a perfect life before you decide to be a parent. In fact, nobody would ever have kids if we did that.

The flip side of that coin is that children need lots of attention and love. They take a lot of time. You worry about them. You sacrifice for them. You put your heart and soul into their well being.

How can a parent balance their own emotional needs while caring for the kid?

Teach yourself tools to get through difficult emotional times. Teach yourself what you need in order to handle stress. Teach yourself how to calm yourself down or how to recognize when you’re on the verge of a meltdown.

Teach yourself about your own emotions so that you are capable of handling the emotional changes ahead as you become a parent.

Click the image below for more information!
13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success

***Unnecessary Things***

  • Don’t try to pay for the kid’s whole life.

You don’t have to pay for their entire college, for their entire wedding, for their entire anything.

It’s great to help your kids, if you can. It’s great to plan ahead for those times in your future, if you can.

But kids, especially adult kids, need the opportunity to learn and grow from life’s challenges. Just like you did. Don’t shield them from hard things. Let them learn to be adults.

Help when you can. But it’s ok to let them work hard too.

Nobody’s perfect. So why should you wait to be a parent until you reach some perfect vision of yourself?

Perfect neon signage mounted on wall

Have a kid at the right time for you, even though you’re a flawed human being, and then work on what you want to become.

In fact, you’ll find that being a parent makes you a better person in a hurry. It’s amazing what you’ll do, what you’ll give up, for those sweet little ones.

  • Don’t expect to be a millionaire before you have kids.

I know we already talked about this. I just thought it was important enough to say again.

  • Don’t expect to feel 100% ready.

Notice, throughout this entire blog, I never once promised that any of these tips would make you “ready”. In life, there is no “just do this and then you’ll be ready to be a parent…”

Nobody is ever ready to become a parent.

Ready doesn’t exist.

You just kind of get thrown into it.

At first, you’re winning if you just keep your head above water. And then you go through this sick phase where just as you start to feel in control, you find yourself sinking again. It’s like the universe is teasing you. And you hope and hope that someday you’ll figure this out.

And then one day you’re suddenly used to it.

I don’t know if you ever stop treading water, but you at least get used to the challenges you have and used to being surprised by new ones. And through it all, you’re happier than you’ve ever been. 

There is no way to be ready.

dad carrying kids

Good parents” weren’t ready when they first became parents. “Good parents” learned to love their kids and live simply.

Don’t worry about all the crap that people say you need.

Just be a “good parent.”

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

Please share with someone who wants to be a “good parent.”

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