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Is there a more perfect union of loyalty, love and friendshipthan the relationship between a child and pet? Probably not, asvirtually any parent who has witnessed the positive effect petownership has had on a child will tell you.

Growing up with a pet benefits children in many ways, includingimproving self-esteem and self-confidence, helping in developingtrusting relationships with other people, and helping developnonverbal communication skills, compassion and empathy, accordingto the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. Infact, pets are such an integral part of life for American childrenthat more kids in this country live with pets than live with bothparents.

To help children get the most out of their relationship withtheir pets – and to help them grow into fulfilled pet-owning adults- it’s important to teach them how to be responsible pet owners.Consider this helpful advice when educating your child about how tocare for a pet:

* If you’re bringing a new baby into a household where a petalready lives, consult with your vet on how to make the homeenvironment as safe and happy – for both pet and child – aspossible. If you are thinking about getting a pet for your family,keep in mind age appropriateness. Infants and very small childrenwill not be able to participate in a pet’s care. Some youngchildren may be able to care for a small pet, like a hamster orgerbil, with adult supervision. The care of larger pets, includingcats and dogs, should be limited to children older than 7 – andonly with adult supervision. No child should ever be made entirelyresponsible for a pet’s care.

* Encourage safe, healthful sleeping habits. Co-sleeping with a pet offers many benefits for a child,including stronger bonding and a sense of security. But pets shouldnot sleep in bed with children – for both the health of the childand pet. Even the hardiest child may wake up with red, itchy eyesafter spending eight hours snuggled up to pet hair and dander. Andsharing the same bed puts small pets at risk for being smothered orharmed when a child rolls over – or puts small children at similarrisk if the pet is larger than they are.

A better solution is a Pet Bunk Bed by Arm’s Reach (www.armsreach.com), theco-sleeping experts who have helped thousands of mothers safelyco-sleep with their newborns. The plush bunk bed fits snuglyagainst a human bed (26 to 30 inches in height), giving pets theirown safe, secure sleeping spot within easy reach of their humancompanions. The pet bunk beds can accommodate pets weighing up to100 pounds, and upper and lower levels allow two pets to co-sleepwith their humans at the same time. In addition to providing a safesleeping environment for children, the pet bunk bed also is greatfor older pets or puppies or kittens that may need more attentionthroughout the night.

* Ensure children understand that taking your pet to the vet forregular checkups is an important part of pet ownership. Get kids involved in the pet’s health by askingthem to help track appointment dates on a calendar, doing onlineresearch to see what immunizations their pet may be due for at eachappointment, and taking them with you – when possible and practical- for routine pet checkups at the vet. A word of caution, though -never allow children to hold a pet during an exam or when a shot isbeing administered. Even the most loving pet may feel stressed andafraid – and could growl, snap or even bite – in such situations.Either hold the pet yourself, or seek the aid of a veterinarytechnician, who’s experienced in holding and soothing frightenedanimals.

Courtesy of ARAcontent