Young children who develop a loving and positive relationship with animals grow up with a more developed sense of kindness, empathy, and consideration. You don’t necessarily need to have a couple of family dogs or a beloved cat in order for your child to feel positively toward animals. There are many ways to incorporate animals into your child’s life. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as your child’s attitude toward animals evolves.
- Teach respectful behavior. Most domestic pets such as cats and dogs enjoy being in the company of their human family members, but it’s important to teach your children to respect their pets, or the pets of their friends or relatives, with respect. Help your child to identify when a family dog needs more space, or how to pet a cat gently. No chasing or rough play allowed!
- Involve them in daily care. Your child can learn a great deal about responsibility, and about the loving role a caregiver takes, by performing regular activities such as feeding your family pets, filling their bowls with water, or brushing them daily. This will help your child to bond with a pet while also understanding the kind of care and attention all animals require.
- Model kind behavior. Treat animals with kindness, whether it’s your family pet or an animal you encounter outside the home. Giving your pet plenty of affection and gently reprimanding your pets with kindness and respect will teach your child to do the same. If you’re not an animal lover, treating other families’ animals with respect is an important way to show your kids that even if you’re not comfortable around animals, you can still treat them well.
- Take in animal-friendly books and movies. Books like Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty, Blueberries for Sal, and Make Way for Ducklings can help your children to understand what makes animals unique and worthy of dignity. And watching movies like Babe, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King will similarly teach your children about the special needs and circumstances of animals in a variety of environments.
- What if you don’t have a family pet, but your child craves a bit of animal affection? You can volunteer at a local shelter. Cats and kittens in shelters always need humans to help to socialize them and give them attention. And dogs in shelters often need walkers.
Whether your child develops a bond with the family dog, Charlotte the spider, or a special friend at the animal shelter, they will learn important lessons about empathy and kindness that will last them well into adulthood.