Below we give you five reasons why living with pets can help to teach children about diversity and nature and provide them with intuitive mechanisms of perception and communication. Far from causing chaos at home, we can see five reasons why having a pet can encourage a sense of responsibility in your child:
Respect for animals: one of the main benefits of having pets is the emotional development of the child, as he/she will come to understand the importance of respecting nature and animals. This way you can prevent and tone down behaviors such as cruelty to animals or a disregard for living nature. It also stops him/her from forming an overly-egocentric view of human beings being able to do as they wish with the environment, not seeing themselves as a part of natural life as a whole.
Development of a sense of responsibility: another of the benefits to children of taking care for animals is that it is a way for them to take on responsibilities. It’s common for children to ask for a pet as a present and it is at this stage that you have to assess whether the child can play his/her part and gradually take over responsibility for looking after it. This will enable the young carer to learn that other creatures also have needs, for example, respecting the animal's feeding times, getting food for it and scheduling the cleaning.
Intuitive communication: in terms of behavior, it is possible for them to develop a strong capacity for empathy due to their ongoing daily relationship with the animal, with which they will communicate both physically and through their body language, and they will need to use a different form of communication than they use with other people. Animals like a dog can convey a lot with their behavior and this can help them to develop their intuition.
Maturity: another important aspect is knowing and understanding that the animal will live for a shorter period of time than people and this will help the child to mature by helping him/her to understand the processes of aging and death as part of the life experience. He/she will learn to manage these emotions and understand them.
Jealousy: living with and caring for an animal and feeling responsible for that living creature can help a child to put the arrival of a sibling into context and stop seeing it as a threat to his/her central role within the family, understanding that he/she should also be helping to look after the newborn child. The child will see him or herself as someone who cares for others and not just the important person who receives care.
All of the above points are carefully considered in the book Julieta y el silencio del río (Julieta and the silence of the river), published by Siruela, in which issues such as respecting animals and the environment are discussed.