Photo Apr 13 1 02 39 PMGetting a pet seems to be a staple in American culture. Kind of a given as part of the American dream that includes the house and the white picket fence. A pet can be a loving companion for a child or a way for a slightly older kid to practice being responsible. But being around animals can be so much more for a child learning how to express themselves or how to function within society. 

As part of our travels, we have chosen to pet sit for different people in different areas of the country. We fell into this organically as we have always not only had pets but rescued animals in our city. For me, it quickly turned into an educational tool I could share with my daughters. They help walk and feed them, keep them clean, entertain them, but my favorite by far is how my daughters have learned how to adapt to the personality of each animal.

Photo Dec 07 4 09 20 PM

Animals have a much more subtle way of communicating than humans do. They have to portray their needs and wants without speaking and usually while trying to follow the rules they have grown conditioned to. To understand them you need to be very aware and keen to their signals. In having to take care of an animal that relies on you for everything, these cues turn into a language of sorts, that can only be understood by those paying attention. For my children, learning how to care for another being has refined these receptors that translate these subtle cues into clear messages. The change I have witnessed in them has been quite significant.

My oldest, Khiara, has always been better at communicating verbally than anything else, and having a sister that is verbally reserved has caused many issues as they grow and change. Khiara’s way of being constantly caused Akyra to feel oppressed and overwhelmed. She needed space to think and Khiara wanted to talk it out. For Khiara, learning to care for non verbal beings has changed how she approaches situations and how she chooses to express herself towards a being that cannot reciprocate in the same way. It’s allowed her to understand that her way is not the only way and that she needs to be flexible to those around her.

It's the learning that we do through experience that has the strongest impact on our lives. There is no too simple of a task. Playing with an animal can teach a child as much about themselves as the world around them. In relating or socializing with them, children get to practice their emotional responses and see how they affect another being. Compassion can also be learned or better understood as the child gets a first hand experience of how an animal reacts to certain actions. And last but not least, animals are so much FUN and full of love!

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