The above picture is one of my son’s pet frogs. Is that a strange pet? Well our requirements for having a pet are that the child must be at least 7 years old and able to feed and take care of the pet on his/her own. The other big requirement is that the pet must be flushable. So we have 3 fish, 1 tree frog and 1 fire bellied toad. When I was a kid I grew up with a family dog she was a part of the family and when she died I was in 3rd grade it was the first loss I had ever experienced in my life. Two days later we bought another dog ,I loved her, dogs just seem to give an unconditional love and they never disagree with you no matter how much others in the family do. She died when I was a sophomore in high school and we never replaced her. My husband is allergic to dogs & cats, so are my children, so pets like those are not an option in my household.
Pets can teach a child many different important lessons in life. However, I think your child needs to be at a reasonable age to be able to understand and accept the responsibility of a pet. While a pet is cute, cuddly and a novel toy at the beginning, the infatuation wanes and real responsibilities begin. If a child is not old enough he/she will not be able to have an understanding that lack of food or water will indeed kill an animal. It is difficult for most children to remember daily to feed and care for a pet. Although each pet belongs to my children and I have only feed the fish 5 times in 2 years, I am the person who reminds the children to feed them. I am not at all attached to these little creatures but I am attached to my children.
A few weeks ago my son was cleaning out the frogs habitat and I told him just put the frogs in with the cricket cage, you see we have to keep crickets alive to feed to the frogs. He put them there for 5 minutes total and Jumper the tree frog turned from green to gray and his fast paced breathing turned labored and slow. We held him misted him and put him back into the clean cage and within an hour he was ok. However for that hour I was surprised at how attached I was to that little tree frog not because I like the frog but because my son cares for his pets. He said to me “Did I do something wrong? Didn’t I take care of him the right way?” It broke my heart so I was really concerned. Until that point I don’t think I realized the effect that our little green frogs had on my son.
So when it comes time, if it has not yet happened, really think about the request your child has for a pet. My children each had to keep his/her room clean for 1 month without reminders in order to get the pet, to prove they could be held responsible. I encourage you not to just run out and get a pet, but to do some research on the type of pet that would work in your home and family life. Then research the needs of that pet ,make a list of which child will do what chore and after a few weeks have past then try it out. Just remember you can’t return most pets, plan to have that pet for years. But also remember that a pet can help to teach your child how to care for another living creature and how to love in a whole different way. Just don’t do it on the spur of the moment and if you’re anything like me you will keep the requirement that it must be flush able.