THE EFFECT OF PETS ON CHILD PSYCHOLOGY
Animals enter the child’s life with toys starting from birth. Plush, swimming ducks in the bathroom, plastic farm animals, walking and talking motor toys are always at the child’s disposal.
A special baby or teddy bear can be a child’s best friend after his mother. This teddy bear shares her secrets, puts up with her anger, relieves her restlessness.
THE ROLE OF PETS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL SKILLS
Pets can also be effective in a child’s life. The child can experiment with interacting and socializing with people through a pet, sharing happiness or sadness, and relieving anger by shouting at it.
In the pre-operational period of development, the baby does not have the ability to determine the cause-effect relationship between events and experiences. Everything is as it seems. At the age of five or six, the trading period begins, and connections can now be established. However, this time, the ability to understand abstract concepts has not developed. Abstract concepts can only be understood after the age of ten to eleven.
Children’s mental skills related to understanding abstract concepts are evaluated by asking the content of proverbs or by measuring their reaction to the jokes told. In the pre-abstract period, children try to find answers to the questions of birth, death, understanding the feelings of others, why they are children of that house and not others. He wants them to be explained in concrete terms. It is not easy for parents to explain these concepts to their children. Most of the time, such questions are avoided or they make explanations as if they are an adult, regardless of the developmental stage of the child. These explanations will either increase the child’s anxiety or be meaningless for him.
At this point, pets can play an important role. Learning concepts such as birth and death, which can be very traumatic for the child, with an animal, will enable the child to adapt to these different information. For example, a ceremony held for the fish with the death of the child’s fish will help him get used to this concept of death and will help him see that life continues with the purchase of a new fish.
Pets can also function as “replacement” or “sharing”, especially in cases where the child experiences deprivation such as losing a loved one, changing home or school, or separation from parents.
THE FAMILY NEEDS TO MAKE A JOINT DECISION
The acquisition of a pet should not depend on the child’s wishes alone, but should be a joint decision of the family. It should be explained to the child that a pet is not like the stuffed toys in the house, that it will require care like a baby, and that it may have needs such as toilet, food and health.
Just because the child wants a cat or dog to be adopted, it may not be appropriate to put all the responsibility on the child. Considering the age of the child, it should be discussed with the child that he will have to take responsibilities regarding the care of the animal and responsibilities should be shared. In addition, it is important for all family members to think carefully about this issue in order to avoid inappropriate situations that may develop later.
DEVELOPMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY
Pets will help the child develop a sense of responsibility. The animal needs a person who takes care of it. When the child undertakes these care-related tasks such as feeding and walking, he will receive the attention and love of the animal in return.
Knowing that an entity needs itself and that it can survive with this bond is a situation that reinforces the child’s self-confidence. By looking at him, he can realize the sense of commitment by tasting the pleasure of giving something, helping, and owning it. The fact that animals can also be sick and that they need to be vaccinated from time to time will support the child in terms of his experiences and help him cope with such situations more effectively.
The child’s interest in animals should be supported and the child should not be frightened. Parents may also frighten their children, especially because they are afraid of themselves, and may cause them to develop phobia. The child’s positive reaction to pets should be supported by their parents.
By teaching the pet something, the child will learn something himself. He can overcome his fears by trying it on him. Thus, the child learns to love, to give, to protect and to be an independent person by being self-sufficient, which is the basis of human relations.
RESEARCH ON PETS AND CHILDREN
Studies are carried out to determine the effects of the presence of a pet on the physiological and behavioral arousal status of children, while routine examinations are carried out by the doctors of children. In one study, in 23 children aged 3-6 years who were routinely examined, it was determined that the heartbeat of the children slowed down and behavioral stress disappeared when there was a dog in the environment. Other research has found that pets reduce stress and have positive effects on emotional state and social interactions.
THE DECISION PROCESS TO HAVE A PET
Pets can have many positive effects, but there are some important points to consider for this. Talking openly and planning the pet acquisition process with the child can make it a positive experience for the whole family.
SUITABLE ANIMAL SELECTION
The idea of being with a pet can bring joy to a child, but it is necessary to make a choice for your family, home, lifestyle and where your child can help care for the pet. For example, when choosing, one should be careful not to choose an animal with an aggressive nature. Of course, pets should be vaccinated on time, special attention should be paid to issues such as the cleanliness of the animal, and it should not be forgotten that this behavior will set an example for the child. Once you have a pet, having to leave it will be very upsetting for the whole family, as it will be a member of the household, and it will be a difficult situation for the child to cope with. For this purpose, it should be determined whether the child and all family members living in the house have allergies, and in such a case, it should be avoided to adopt a pet.
The physical conditions of the house, the economic situation of the family must be suitable for the acquisition of such an animal. Considering that the process of taking care of the animal, adaptation to the house and adaptation to a new family will be very long, not only for the child, the neglect and abuse of the animal to be brought into the house should also be prevented. If these conditions are not suitable, it would be appropriate to postpone this decision for a while.
Caring for a pet can help children develop their social skills. However, some rules must be observed:
• Children under the age of 3-4 should be constantly observed when they are with pets, as they have not yet mastered their aggressive impulses and anger control.
• Children under the age of 10 cannot fully care for a large animal such as a cat or dog.
• Even if children are old enough to care for a pet, parents should continue to provide supervision.
• Parents should take responsibility when children act negligently in pet care. This is a situation that should not be skipped for the pet. However, this situation should be discussed with the child, and if necessary, responsibility should be given again.
• Children should be gently reminded that their pets need to eat, drink and travel just like humans.
• If your child continues to neglect their pet, it may also be necessary to find a new home for the pet.
• Parents have to set an example. Children will learn best about owning a pet by observing the behavior of their parents.
Animals and children can form an excellent team when appropriate choices are made. Taking care of and playing with a pet will be remembered as the most enjoyable times of childhood.