Family pets have become a growing popularity in recent years, and we can totally see why. From cats and dogs, to bunny rabbits and hamsters, you and your loved ones can be provided with endless love and entertainment with these furry friends.
However, if you have small children, they can sometimes struggle to adjust to having a real-life animal in their home. Despite reassuring them that there is nothing to fear, anxieties surrounding your family’s pet can still easily develop amongst little ones.
If you recently got a pet and are having teething problems with your child feeling comfortable around it, then not to worry!
Below, we have set out our top five pieces of advice that will help your kid to feel relaxed and unafraid around their new furry friend. Of course, these measures will take some time to become ingrained, but they should hopefully help to ease your little one’s worries:
Gradually introduce them
When it comes to something that you are scared of, it is always best to start off small! Now that you are aware of your child’s fears, it is best to treat them as if they have never met your family’s pet before. Introduce them from a safe distance to begin with, so that they do not become overwhelmed too quickly. Over time, as your child gets more comfortable, you can bring them closer and closer to the animal until they are within touching distance. By this point, they might feel able to reach out and gently pet their animal. Slow and steady!
Teach them how to interact
If your little one’s fear has stemmed from a bad experience interacting with the animal, then they might need to be educated on how to safely be around them. Teach them all the do’s and don’ts of behaviour around animals - for example, petting them gently, never being aggressive with them, and staying away from their mouths. Additionally, let your kid know that there are certain moments throughout the day that we should let the pet be undisturbed, such as when it is eating or sleeping.
Give them positive reinforcement
As with every child’s behaviour, the more positive reinforcement they receive, the easier they will be with adjusting to it! Every time your kid has a successful interaction with your family’s pet, let them know that you are super proud of their progress and that they did really well. Even if they only petted their animal for a few seconds, praising them for it could then encourage them to pet their furry friend for longer, the next time they interact.
Give them a safe space
As an adult or a child, any time that we feel anxious, we appreciate having a designated safe space to go to to relax. Whilst your child is getting over their fear of your pet, it is crucial that they have one or two places in your home where they can escape to, knowing that your pet will not be there. Whether this is your child’s own bedroom or a playroom, having a space that allows them to relax is incredibly important - especially during those moments when they are struggling to make progress.
Educate them about your pet
Lastly, just like you would with any new family member, you should educate your child on who your family’s new pet is. As well as the basics of what their furry friend’s name is and what breed they are, your kid will also be interested in knowing what the animal’s favourite foods, toys and comforts are. By creating this bond of knowledge between the two, your little one will then feel more encouraged to strike up a friendship with your new pet.
If your child still continues to struggle with feeling comfortable with your family pet, then do not hesitate to consult an animal professional for advice and support.