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Kids and Pets: How to Help Them Get Along

26 Sep 2014 – 02:13 PM EDT

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When it comes to kids and pets, there can be a variety of reasons why they may not get along or have one of those loving cuddly relationships you see on TV. First of all, safety is imperative when it comes to introducing a pet to a child. Once you establish that the pet is safe to be around your children, there is room for a lifelong friendship to evolve.

The benefits of having an animal in the home as children develop are phenomenal and can contribute greatly to mental, physical and spiritual growth. Anything from learning how to take care of a pet to learning about unconditional love from a pet can be rewarding. There are some beneficial ways that you can help your kids and pets to become more comfortable around each other.

Teach Your Kids How to Be Gentle

Kids and pets don’t always get along from the get go. For a child, a pet may look like a stuffed animal that moves. It is important to teach your kids that they need to be gentle when it comes to petting or hugging the family dog or cat. If you have watched your kids playing with their stuffed animals, you probably have witnessed hair pulling, dragging and smacking. This is unacceptable in the treatment of a family pet, and your little one needs to learn this right from the first introduction.

Parents and guardians can teach their kids to be gentle by using the child’s stuffed animals and practicing petting techniques. It may take some time before a young child understands the meaning of gentle, but FIDO or Fluffy will certainly appreciate it down the road.

Spend Quality Family Time Together

A smart way to get the kids and pets together so they can form bonds is to spend some genuine family time together. For example, you can go out to the beach or into the backyard with the dog and spend time playing fetch. There are many family activities you can enjoy that will allow your children and pets to build a friendship.

Different Personalities, Different Needs

A great way to help your child better understand your pet is to teach them about the general personalities of a dog or cat. Dogs and cats have entirely different needs. Tell your child about the independent mind of a cat and how they mostly like to keep to themselves. Teach them that it is not always ok to disturb kitty when he is sleeping in the sun and that kitty won’t like it if they grab his fur when he is peacefully eating. When it comes to dogs, teach your kids that dogs love to be loved, but they also require a time out period. Tell them that the dog gets tired just like humans and they need their sleep too.

A child that grows up with a pet has the experience to understand unconditional love and friendship at a very young age and this may lead to them developing healthier relationships overall.