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While all kinds of pets can bring children pleasure, it is important to choose a pet that is right for your family, your home, and your lifestyle; and one that your child can help care for.  Parents should be cautious about having aggressive animals as pets.  Exotic and unusual animals may be difficult to care for and should be considered very carefully.

Taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills.  However, certain guidelines apply:

  1. Since very young children (under the age of 3-4 years) do not have the maturity to control their aggressive and angry impulses, they should be monitored with pets at all times.
  2. Young children (under 10 years) are unable to care for a large animal, a cat or a dog, on their own.
  3. Parents must oversee the pet’s care even if they believe their child is old enough to care for a pet.
  4. If children become lax in caring for a pet, parents may have to take over the responsibility on their own.
  5. Children should be reminded in a gentle, not scolding way, that animals, like people, need food, water, and exercise.
  6. If a child continues to neglect a pet, a new home may have to be found for the animal.
  7. Parents serve as role models.  Children learn responsible pet ownership by observing their parents’ behavior
  8. Make sure that your child and pet are properly socialized and watch for inappropriate behavior.

When thinking of children’s mental capacity make sure to read: New Checklist To Screen Infants For Autism Is Available

Although most children are gentle and appropriate with pets, some may be overly rough or even abusive.  If such behavior persists, it may be a sign of significant emotional problems.  Any child who abuses, tortures or kills animals should be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a comprehensive evaluation.

As you welcome a new member into your family make sure to read: 10 Tips To Create New Family Habits For A Fresh Start