Many parents have to face the dilemma of their teens approaching them and begging you to let them have a pet. One of the first thoughts that enters your mind is whether or not a pet would be right for the family.
You don’t want to dash your teen’s hopes. However, you will also be aware of the fact that owning a pet brings with it a particular set of problems. If you are faced with this situation, here are some things to consider.
On the benefits side
Letting your teen own a pet can have some beneficial consequences, as outlined below.
Looking after a pet
Letting your teen own a pet can lead to your son or daughter learning about responsibility. Whatever type of pet it turns out to be, your teen will have to accept the fact that he or she must be the one to look after it.
With fish, for example, that will entail cleaning out the fish tank and changing the water. With a cat or dog, your teen will have to clean up any waste the animal makes and make sure to care for the animal on a daily basis.
Being responsible for a pet entails understanding all about how to look after a living creature day after day and will require the teen´s undivided attention, their full consideration, and the assuming of full ownership.
As a parent, it’s your duty to advise your teen before giving your permission to go ahead and get a pet, and that if he or she cannot fully accept the responsibility of looking after the animal, it will have to be returned. If you’d like some tips on the pet-related chores your teen will have to become familiar with, here are some useful tips to check out.
A pet as a companion
Pets can be fantastic companions for teens. It means your teen will have a little friend with whom they can share their time. This is especially good if your teen spends a considerable amount of time on his or her own. It means that there will be plenty of time to nurture a close relationship with the pet.
A mood enhancer
Recent research has concluded that time spent with pets can have a significant effect on one’s mood. Many teenagers say that pet companionship reduces their stress levels and helps them to manage any anxiety and depression symptoms they have. If your teen is one who has difficulty with mood management, a pet can prove genuinely beneficial.
On the risks side
You also have to beware that having a pet in the house can create new challenges. Here are some of the more common risks to consider.
Making time for a pet
Depending on the type of pet, looking after it properly will be a daily commitment. A lot of teens may not be able to cope with this. They have tight schedules at school, after-school activities, and sometimes outside jobs. It could result in your teen neglecting the animal or getting burnt out trying to look after it properly.
Many tees have to seek alternative accommodation in order to attend a college in a different location. It means they will no longer be there to look after the pet. The majority of colleges do not allow students to take their pets on campus unless they are, of course, special emotional support animals. So, if your teen does move out, leaving the pet behind, the burden will fall on you, the parent, to look after it.
Pet care isn’t cheap
Pet ownership doesn’t come cheap. There’s the food, visits to the vet, recommended vaccinations, having a pet neutered, and buying it toys. All of these things cost money sometimes far more than is anticipated. For teens on an allowance, this can be pretty hard to bear.
It may mean them digging into their savings or having to cut some things out to keep their ownership obligations affordable. Either way, it’s not really acceptable because it means that both your teen and the pet will face challenges.
Questions to consider
When all is said and done, it all comes down to one crucial question. Are you willing to allow your teen to have a pet? Can the necessary lifestyle changes be made?
If the answer is in the affirmative, then you have a green light to allow your teen to take responsibility for a pet entering your family life. There are bound to be some days when your teen is just too busy to do what is necessary and may need assistance; he or she might have to go on an out-of-town visit or could have a school trip planned.
If it does turn out that your teen has to leave home to attend the new college, the pet is most likely to be left behind, and you need to be ready to deal with that situation.
If the answer is in the negative, you’re going to have to have a conversation with your teen about leaving it a while until he or she can fully accept the responsibility.
You might say, “Ordinarily I would prefer you to own a pet and have a great time, but it’s not going to be right leaving a pet here in this household if you’re continually going to be out and about. It’s not fair on us or the pet. You ought to consider waiting until you have your own place, then the decision is yours to make.”
Did this help?
Pet ownership is a big responsibility; therefore, it’s essential to study the pros and cons carefully before you come to any conclusion.
It is hoped that the points mentioned above will help you with making the right decision. In the meantime, you should remember that even if you rule pet ownership out at this point in time, your teen will always be free to get one in later life.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.