Pets are trusted family members, offering themselves as partners for high-energy playtime, cuddle time, and everything in between. Our mutually interdependent relationships allow us to share unconditional bonds that reveal the reciprocity of love. We offer our pets safety and comfort, and they remind us to appreciate the simple things in life; to enjoy just having fun for the sake of smiles, laughter, and good feelings.
Simple Life Lessons
Pets offer unrestrained affection, aren’t sensitive to embarrassment, and don’t hold grudges. Embodying the playfulness of youth, pets can help us rediscover the interconnected simplicity of valuing what we have right in front of us. When we are dealing with difficulties, the love of our pets can remind us to focus on things that satisfy our souls. While we tend to think our pets depend on us, maybe we also depend on them.
As children grow, they face so many pressures; academics, friendships, and expectations all carry weight. Playing with pets offers a physiologically therapeutic interlude from the day-to-day stresses of life.
While humans can be fickle, pets will never do anything to exclude us, ignore us, or hurt our feelings. If loneliness looms, pets offer unconditional friendship and companionship. Pets often become confidantes for children (and adults) who feel like they have no one else to talk to; we commonly talk through things and share secrets with our pets. Regardless of relationships with other friends, pets help us feel like we always have someone who values us.
Empathy, Compassion, & Bonding
Pets neither make their own food nor refill their own water bowls. They often rely on their owners for exercise and entertainment. With these inherent dependencies, caring for a pet sparks feelings of empathy and compassion. Children learn to look outside of themselves and consider what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, even if that someone is a pet. They might talk about how their pet might feel when it is ignored or forgotten, hungry or cold.
When children pause to consider their pet’s cares and needs, they show the empathy and compassion so foundational to the development of emotional intelligence. Eventually, an inseparable bond forms, and when this happens, the mutual love is endless. The privilege of this commitment positively recalibrates our connection with our pet, ourselves, and our world.
Pets help active children burn off energy and get sedentary children up and moving. Through all kinds of play, pets encourage children to get outside, exercise, and socialize.
Unconditional Love & Acceptance
Pets allow us to love without fear of rejection. Growing up with a pet grants children a judgment-free zone, a best friend who doesn’t care about their clothes, appearance, or popularity. Pets love us exactly as we are—making offers of comfort, companionship, and confidence—offers that subliminally help kids start breaking away from dependencies on dad and mom.
Teaching children how to be responsible is no easy task. Time and again, children forget to make their bed, brush their teeth, and even their shoes. With another living creature depending on them, pet ownership teaches about the importance of duty and follow-through, motivated by the power of love. Children learn that owning a pet is not something that can be taken lightly. Whether it’s cleaning the litter box, walking the dog, or caring for a bearded dragon, owning a pet teaches responsibility.
When children take the lead with the chores that come along with pet ownership, they develop a sense of accomplishment. Each time they complete a task, they build independence and autonomy. As they become mature enough to manage these responsibilities on their own, they further develop self-esteem, self-confidence, and a sense of purpose.
Getting a Pet
The decision to own a pet carries enormous implications. Home life, the type of animal wanted, the age of the children, and overall lifestyle should all inform the choice for our family. Do we have a big yard? Do we travel or are we homebodies? Who will be responsible for taking care of the pet? The answers to these questions should resolve whether our family is ready for a pet and what type of pet might be best.
Getting a pet is exciting! It is welcoming another member of the family; something to be carefully considered. While owning a pet may offer great opportunities for learning, we shouldn’t impulsively get a pet and then dump all the responsibility on our children. Considerations must be made for feeding, and possibly exercise, training, and vet care. While parents are ultimately responsible, we must ensure that the kids are dutiful in carrying out their responsibilities. Remember, if we choose a pet that isn’t right for our household, and must later find it another home, this can be very difficult for the children.
“God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.” —Genesis 1:25 NLT
The local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, so he finds a solution involving all kinds of unusual animals.
A heart-tugging adoption story told with deeply sincere letters—desperate pleas for a forever home—from the dog, himself!
“When our pets aren’t with us anymore, an Invisible Leash connects our hearts to each other. Forever.” That’s what Zack’s friend Emily tells him after his dog dies. Zack doesn’t believe it. He only believes in what he can see. But on an enlightening journey—and through his grief—he comes to feel the comforting tug of the Invisible Leash. And it feels like love.
Alex just has to convince his mom to let him have an iguana, so he puts his arguments in writing. He promises that she won’t have to feed it or clean its cage or even see it if she doesn’t want to, all while Mom imagines a six-foot-long iguana eating them out of house and home.
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