How to prepare children to welcome a new pet



Excitement is the order of the day when welcoming a new pet into a home.

Families often go to great lengths when picking a new pet for their household, spending significant time studying specific breeds and preparing their homes for the new addition. Despite that preparation, no one truly knows how a family dynamic will shift until the pet comes home.

Adults who have had pets in the past may know what to expect when welcoming a new pet to the family, but kids with no such experience may need a little coaching. The following are some ways parents can prepare youngsters to welcome a new pet into their homes.

• Emphasize respect for the animal. The Animal Humane Society urges parents to teach children how to touch animals with respect. Many children naturally love animals, and that enthusiasm may compel them to be a little overexcited in their initial interactions with their new pet. In such instances, pets may feel threatened, even by small children, which could lead them to bark, growl or lunge at youngsters. So it’s important for parents to teach children how to approach and touch their new pets prior to brining the animal into the home.

• Explain body language to kids. The American Kennel Clubs notes that deciphering a dog’s body language is an important part of communicating with the animal, as dogs utilize posture, facial expression and other physical cues to communicate with their human companions. Parents can speak with the adoption agency and/or their veterinarians about body language specific to certain animals and what each gesture may signify. Explain these gestures to children so they can learn when to leave a pet alone or when to engage with it.

• Encourage kids to afford animals a period to adjust. Kids may not be the only ones who don’t know what to expect when welcoming a new pet into their homes. The pets themselves may be a little nervous. Explain to children that the animal’s initial days in the home should be seen as an adjustment period and not necessarily a time to engage in lots of play with the animal. For example, when welcoming a new cat or kitten into a home, the AHS urges parents to limit children’s interactions to gentle petting when the cat approaches. This initial adjustment period is not the time to pick up the cat or encroach on it physically. This time should be free of sudden movements and loud noises as the pet adjusts to its new surroundings.

The day a new pet first comes home is a momentous one for families. Parents can help that transition go smoothly by preparing young children for the newest member of the family.

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