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Written by: PoshMom Editorial Team

They say it is the most wonderful time of the year. We get it. The holiday music gets us going. We live for family together time. Open house drop-ins are warm and cozy. Memories conjured from cooking aromas wafting through the house are priceless. The type-A ones in the crowd are also super excited that it’s gift wrapping time—with the organizations of gift wrap rolls, bows, tapes, cards, perfect corners to taper and more. And the lists–oh the lists: compiling them, shopping (finding deals!) them and checking them off. Except when there is a gift or two that we
are debating over. Is it too expensive? Is it age appropriate? Will they like it? Will it be too much work for me?

Ah, you must be thinking about a pet. Considering mollifying your little one’s desire to have a cuddly (or slimy) friend? We completely get it. Been there done that and fell in love with the creature while we were at it. Our take? Even though we know it will add more to our already full and juggling plates, there is one on the plus side for the absolute love and adoration from some of these fur (or slimy) babies. Perhaps, though, one of the most important reasons why to say
yes to a pet this holiday is to teach the lifelong lesson of responsibility. And as a result nurture that quality in your children.

Levels of Responsibility

There is zero question that with pet ownership comes newfound responsibilities. Depending on the type of pet, and what you’re willing to back up your kid for, those take-ons can be minor or kind of off-the-charts.

Think about guinea pigs and hamsters. Their cages need cleaning and they like to be held and get a bit of affection but are also perfectly happy when clean and fed to hang in their cage with some toys and a wheel to keep them busy. Fish, like guppies and goldfish, are super low maintenance. They require feeding and clean water but they stay put in their bowl. Cats are also pretty low-key as they are high on the independent scale. They need to be regularly fed, for sure, but bathing is mostly self-care and they can be left on their own since they don’t require regular walks to take care of business.

Higher maintenance animals like dogs require lots of attention, regular feeding schedules, walks and playtime to manage their energy. Plus just like our kids, those puppy dog eyes get you every time, so there is definitely the requirement to pencil in lots of moments just for sitting and cuddling. Even more time consuming are larger/farm animals like horses who need to be fed, ridden, groomed to name a few equine must-dos (not to mention all of the expenses, but to each his/her own).

Teaching Responsibility

All that said, no matter what pet you decide on, caring for one can instill a sense of responsibility in your kids. This alone is a very good reason why to say yes to a pet. Teaching responsibility early on will result in many benefits that influence their daily existence, now and later. These may include academics, friendships and extra curricular activities presently and careers, community involvement and their own families in the future.

Not only do taking on tasks help with accountability, but being depended on also sets a foundation for your children to be leaders and to understand the importance of follow through. Let them learn, and gently be there to remind and guide, but don’t do it for them (put down those helicopter controls, please).

To-dos: Feeding

We are starting with a big one here: it’s pretty much life and death. Your pet doesn’t eat…well enough said. And while of course you would never let your new little furry (or slimy) baby go without, this needs to be a major job for your kids. Of course it is necessary to assist little ones with this task but let them take the lead when possible and always be involved. Set them up for success by organizing a feeding station where everything they need is easily accessible. Clean up is also on them. When they wash out bowls and utensils, it’s their job to put everything back in its pre-planned place. They should also be aware of when food levels are low to tell you that it’s time to reorder or prepare (for those fur parents who make their own pet meals). If you have little ones you wake up on a daily basis, let them know you will be coming for them up to onehalf hour earlier for pet duties. For those who arise after tapping snooze just enough times to make it out the door, they will need to re-jig their schedules to allow for pet-care time. Clarify all of that well before you decide why to say yes to a pet.

To-dos: Walking

This task puts a check in the why to say yes to pets “dog” edition box. Dogs, whether little or big, need walks. Even if it’s just around the block, their energy is burned off, their legs (all four) are stretched and it’s also likely pushing everything through for a somewhat scheduled potty break. Going for walk is really not something you can’t do for dogs. Getting outside is good for your kids too. It’s forced fresh air, time away from screens and making them move their bodies too. Plus walk time is also another method when your child is stepping up caretaking skills. Dogs can be smart, but they are not typically street smart (hence the leash) and rely on their humans to keep them safe and protected. You have taught your kids to watch out for cars and how to cross the street. Now watch them soar (or if they’re young, tag along!).

To-dos: Quality Time

This looks different depending on your pet and their personality. Still, your kids need to pencil in time to play with their pet. It’s not a low-priority piece that can get put off when a new show is dropping (ummm, can’t they stream it a few minutes later) or because they’ve procrastinated homework. Pets get lonely too and just a few minutes one on one with their humans is huge. That’s not to say, pets don’t love couch potato moments snuggled up and getting pets or
watching from their crate on a desktop while their person tackles homework. Even petting without thinking about it makes a difference—a natural tendency to show love and be around without effort is huge. That said, taking the time to focus on a pet and not their phones or friends, is a trait that will also reap benefits for years to come. Your children will be tuned in when others are talking, build major attention to detail skills and be able to be present for their
own kids. Between homework, after school activities and a social schedule, your kids will be learning some time management and prioritization skills while they’re at it. Plus your offspring will be happy to spend these moments since there’s really nothing like experiencing the unconditional love that comes right back at them

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