You might be wondering how on earth an animal can influence human development. But if you, like many of the families I work with, have not had great role models of unconditional love, you can develop it by loving and accepting a pet. Model your unconditional love to your family just as your pet offers that love to you.
Animals Teach Unconditional Love
When a young father was court ordered to attend a parenting class, he asked me to demonstrate how to show love. He was honest in stating that he had never received love and acceptance from his parents and did not want to make the same mistake with his child.
I asked him to envision a cocker spaniel pet greeting him when he returned home. The dog looks you in the eye and is just so happy to see you. He doesn’t put conditions on love, or demand perfection. The pet demonstrates unconditional love and acceptance of you just as you are. Of course, we went on to give him words to say, and behaviors to develop, but asked him to keep the vision of the loving pet in his mind as he interacted with his child.
Pets Teach Responsibility
For a child that is in charge of caring for an animal, it creates a sense of responsibility. A child learns that actions have consequences. If the pet isn’t loved or cared for, then bad things will happen. It also teaches a child about the values of companionship and friendship. Animals don’t judge people and when they commit to a person that commitment is very hard to break.
Pets Teach Resiliency
A few years ago I was writing a book called “Raise Resilient Children—Be a Bounce Back Kid” For part of the research I interviewed 5th and 6th-grade kids at a school, church and camp. My question for them was “What do you do when you are disappointed? How do you bounce back?” I assumed that they would tell me that they talked to their parents. Wrong! Parents were far down on the list.
Want to know what number one answer was? Animals. Most of the kids told me that they went to their pets for love and support. If they did not have live animals, they had stuffed animals. The second best answer was music and then movies with animals in them.
Was I surprised? Yes, but I should not have been. We had seen our own children, foster kids and neighbor kids gravitate to an animal when life got tough. They could tell the animal secrets and know that the secret would be safe, and they would not be judged or found wanting in life.
Companionship for Adults
Even in adulthood animals play a crucial role. For people who live alone, there is nothing better than coming home to an animal that is glad to see its owner. Once again there is a bond that can’t be translated into words. Animals also provide adults with a sense of purpose, especially the elderly.
For most of us, there is a fundamental need to take care of somebody, or in this case an animal. Like mentioned before, they don’t judge. Animals don’t moan about the house they live in or care about the financial wealth you have. It’s the type of friendship that is based purely on understanding and caring for each other. They instinctively know when their owner is feeling depressed, happy or scared and given a chance, they will try to stand by their owner the best way they know how.
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PS: Don’t forget Judy Helm Wright is a Pet Grief Coach and is available for consults for you or a friend who is having a hard time in assisting your beloved fur friend to cross the rainbow bridge.
PSS: Judy is an active member of Industry Leaders like WIPIN (Women In The Pet Industry Network) and BlogPaws