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Pets Can Teach Children How to Nurture and Care

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Children Develop Caregiving Skills with Pets

Children in homes with pets have great opportunities to develop critical caregiving abilities and social skills.  When children are encouraged to participate in caring for family pets at age appropriate levels they can begin to learn how to nurture and care for others.

Pets are not threatening and can be stress reducers for children.  Providing simple care based on a child's individual abilities will sow seeds of joy and responsibility.

Caring for pets is a neutral activity that is almost always a good fit for children.  Use these tips:

  • Praise your child often to make the experience positive.
  • Create a simple reward program using stickers, extra playtime, games or outings as treats.
  • A daily chart can provide your child with visual evidence of results and rewards.

Check with your veterinarian for more ideas to create the best home for your pets.

Gail Melson, author of Why the Wild Things Are:  Animals in the Lives of Children has been watching animals and children for some time.  She estimates that of every ten children, four grow up in a home that includes domestic animals.  She has determined that as many as 90 percent of all youngsters live with a pet at some point during their childhood.

Living with pets and caring for them can teach both boys and girls great lessons.

Young girls are usually encouraged to play with dolls and play house.  Girls learn to care and often actively begin tending to others in the home before the age of eight.  Girls will play dress-up with their animals, dolls and siblings.  Later, girls may become babysitters in their home or neighborhood. The social and caregiving skills learned in these activities are useful to girls throughout their lives.

"Nurturing animals is especially important for boys," Melson says.  Young boys are usually not encouraged similarly and may miss out on the opportunity to learn caregiving skills.  Balls, cars and sports typically occupy the interest of young boys.  Boys can care for pets in their home without fear of criticism or reproach; they are merely caring for their dog, cat, hamster or other animal.  Actually providing the care becomes the only issue and boys are able to feel comfortable with nurturing.  Taking care of an animal is not gender specific and both boys and girls can always remain equally involved.

"Nurturing isn't a quality that suddenly appears in adulthood when we need it," Dr. Melson advises. "And you don't learn to nurture because you were nurtured as a child.  People need a way to practice being caregivers when they're young."  Household pets provide frequent opportunities for young boys and girls to develop nurturing habits.  Caregiving for animals teaches them responsibility for seeing that the family dog or cat receives fresh water and food at certain times throughout the day.

Children can provide simple care from a very young age and fill greater needs as their abilities allow.  Caring for the family pets can also help children expand their sense of self awareness and develop an awareness about other people, time or space.  Children will also to develop their ability to anticipate needs.

Helping your child to become responsible for pets in your home needs to occur on a step-by-step basis.  The process must be implemented according to your child's cognitive abilities and physical abilities.  Remember that each child is different and has different levels of capabilities when you begin talking to them about caring for your household pets.

When your child is the responsible party for providing care for a pet in your home, always remember that you'll still need to keep your eye on the water dishes, food bowls, walks and potty trips.  You may find it necessary to provide gentle reminders for your child.  Creating happy notes and making simple awards like stickers, stars or allowing extra playtime will make the transition more fun for your child.  Involving the whole family to encourage your child will increase his or her success and enjoyment.

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Testimonials

  •           8/29/2017

    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

    Unfortunately, this year I’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. The compassion the staff showed to both my pet and I made these unbearable times tolerable. I am indebted to both Dr. Del Rosso and (the wonderful) Dr. Ravn for their kindness, compassion and dedication.

    If you are new to the area or just looking for a new vet, please give Balboa pet Hospital a call!

  •           6/5/2017

    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

  •           6/5/2017

    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

  •           4/28/2017

    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

  •           5 of 5

    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

  •           5 of 5

    I have been a patron of Balboa Pet Hospital for almost 500 years now (wink). I love Everybody there and feel they are have always been a great resource and the BEST support system for everything pertaining to my pets.

  •          

    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.
     

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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