Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.
Pets Lower Stress Levels
During the highly stressful two week period after the tragedy of 9-11 in New York City, psychotherapists intervened with the children whose family members were affected. They created a Kids Corner where children were cared for while their parents received assistance. Several organizations teamed up to bring therapy dogs to the children for many reasons. They found that dogs were helpful in lowering stress levels simply by being petted. Pet therapy had been used previously throughout the United States at disaster sites. I’ve also known that pets are used for those with emotional disturbances in the United States and England.
AFTER THE 9-11 TRAGEDY
The aim of early intervention with these traumatized children who lost loved ones and may have witnessed the tragic events was to help them contain overwhelming experiences, so that the first responses of shock—such as compulsively driven play, recurrent recall of the traumatic events, nightmares, heightened distress at reminders of the tragedy and flashbacks—didn’t become chronic.
Dogs were provided for the children. Once the kids made contact with the dogs, quite a large number became more responsive to the mental health professionals. Withdrawn kids became much more open. Some children took the workers to see pictures of their lost family members. The children became able to express feelings through talk and pictures and take in the acknowledgements of warm adults.
MORE REASONS CHILDREN
CONNECTIONS WITH PETS
Children of all ages repeatedly beg their parents for all different kinds of pets, large and small, because the animals provide a feeling of being wanted and loved. Some children who don’t feel understood by adults at times seek their pets for consolation.
Children also learn how to nurture by having pets and often give them the love they wish to receive. Both the pet and the child or teen benefit greatly. The choice of a pet is very interesting because if you listen carefully to why the child prefers one pet over another, you can start to learn what they need emotionally. A little hamster can be fed like an infant satisfying even an older child’s need to be babied by babying the pet—giving what they wish to receive but feel to old for. Some cats cuddle and others don’t reflecting the child’s choice of a warm being that they can be close to or isn’t too encroaching. Some children want frisky dogs, others want lap dogs, each satisfying different needs.
Girls and boys often take excellent care of grooming, feeding, and caring for their horses who become like a best friend.
REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS OF CHILDREN
WHO CARE FOR THEIR PETS BUILD PARENT-CHILD BONDS
Parents often give pets as a way to teach their children and teens responsibility for physical and emotional care giving. It is often problematic because many kids don’t carry out their responsibilities fully. They love their pets but don’t have the maturity to realize the extent of care an animal actually needs on a daily basis.
Often parents expect the child to take on the full duty of taking care of their pet rather than seeing pet care as a collaborative job with the parent taking the lead and the child being the helper.
If the whole job is given to the child who can’t meet the parents’ expectations, arguments break out with increasing frequency. Instead of modifying expectations to a more realistic level, parents forget “gentle discipline” when they feel helpless and punish in frustration which leads to resentment and divisiveness in the parent-child relationship, not good pet or happy child care.
Using Parental Intelligence which means sharing thoughts and feelings about caring for a loved one is a far better solution that builds the parent-child relationship while providing kindness for the pet.
SHOULD YOU EVER
TAKE A PET AWAY?
Most important is not to punish insufficient caretaking by taking the pet away. This leads to an emotional sense of loss of a pet. Then the child grieves with a deep sense of guilt that is too hard for even a teen to tolerate. The emotional loss of the love the pet gave doesn’t teach how to take responsibility. The child judges the parent harshly believing their mother or father didn’t really love the pet as part of the family. The child feels a great lack of understanding.
Those wounds do not teach. They cause a painful sense of loss that is rarely forgotten. I’ve met many adults who have held on to those difficult childhood memories.
THE PARENT AS A
Parental Intelligence guides children with kind listening and warm understanding at a level appropriate to a child’s age and development.
This is the best way to teach how to become a good caregiver.
Demonstrating such care with your child is the best way to teach children how to care for their pets.
HOW DID HUMANS AND DOGS FIRST BECOME CONNECTED?
There is a question about how humans and dogs first became associated with each other. There is a theory that before humans settled into villages and colonies several thousands of years ago, it was wolves, from whom dogs are descended, who domesticated humans rather than the other way around. The wolves sought food and their bonding with humans became a way to insure they would be fed by the human’s cast offs.
While they received food, they satisfied the humans’ innate need to bond. This resulted in an important interconnection between the animals and the humans who became able to settle in the first rural communities. The animals and humans also created a close tie because the animals took on the much needed role of guarding humans against danger with their excellent abilities to hear danger and warn their human caretakers. Today, we continue to see even our little puppies begin to act like watch dogs and certainly bond around the wish to be fed!
For additional information about pets on 9-ll, an excellent book that covers the full extent of the trauma is September ll: Trauma and Human Bonds by Susan Coates, Jane Rosenthal & Daniel Schecter.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
- Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
- All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
- Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
- Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
- Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
- Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
- Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
- Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
- HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
- It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
- Canine Haikus —Kids, dog, haikus, atDionna (Code Name: Mama).Pet-centric poems.
- Beanie’s Bunnies — Our Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
- Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
- How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
- No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
- Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
- 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.