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Mr. and Mrs. Peppermint consider whether or not Pete, Patty, Peggy and Philpot are ready for their f

Check out what has to say about whether your family is ready to invite a pet into your house?

10 Signs Your Family is Ready for A Pet

Find out whether you and your children are ready to add a pet to your family.

Meghan Ross, Contributor


Articles> 10 Signs Your Family is Ready for A Pet

Pets can be an important part of family life, but knowing the right time to bring an animal into your home is tricky. To learn more about how parents can tell if their kids are ready for a pet, we talked to Gina DiNardo, a spokesperson at the American Kennel Club; KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for The Humane Society of the United States; Lisl Fair, author of "Good Enough Parenting" and Colleen Pelar, author of "Living with Kids and Dogs ... Without Losing Your Mind." Here they offer their insight on what you should know before adding a pet to your family:

  1. Your Child Is Comfortable Around Animals Getting a pet isn't the cure for a fear of animals. "A fearful child is more likely to make a mistake around animals," says Theisen, so work on building up your child's comfort level in ways other than getting your own pet. Visit an animal shelter or spend time with friends' pets. Begin by introducing your child to calm animals, such as older dogs, rather than puppies. "Some children are naturally scared of animals, and parents should not force their children to touch or interact with a pet; rather, let the example of how you interact with the pet guide them out of their fears," says Fair.

  2. Your Child Shows Respect for Animals Kids must respect the guidelines for appropriate behavior around animals. For example, they must understand pets should not be tugged or hit. They must be touched gently and left alone while eating. Just because a child wants to interact with a pet doesn't mean it's an appropriate time to do so, and kids need to have the self-control to leave the animal alone.

  3. Your Child Can Handle Family Tasks How does your child do when you ask him to unload the dishwasher or set the table? If he's taking care of his current responsibilities, he might be ready to participate in pet care.

  4. Your Child Remembers to Brush Teeth Without Reminders Fair suggests remembering to brush one's teeth every day without being reminded is a good indication of a child's maturity level and readiness for pet care. "If the child is going to have the main responsibility for the pet, it is best to wait until they are pre-teen to early teens," DiNardo says. "Before that, they can help out, but some important care-giving aspects, like walks and training, cannot be done alone by a child." No matter the age of your child, however, expect to do spot checks on how they're doing, and be prepared to take over the responsibilities if they're not following through.

  5. Your Children Are Truly Committed to the Idea of Getting a Pet Make sure your child is in this for the long haul before bringing your new pet home. Determine whether the wish for a pet is a passing fad or a desire that will stick around, even when pet ownership feels like a chore. As Theisen says, "The novelty wears off."

  6. Your Children Want a Pet That Is the Best Fit for the Whole Family Children need to understand not every pet will be right for your family. Pelar says every animal needs enrichment, but some need more than others, so consider which pets fit the time and space you have available. Birds require the most time investment, followed by dogs, then cats. The American Kennel Club offers information to help families who are interested in dog ownership select the right breed. Additionally, Fair points out that small animals aren't always a good fit in a family with very small children: "Toddlers could easily love smaller pets to death."

  7. Your Child Has a Lot of Energy If your child loves running around in the yard, going to the park and playing outside, a pet may help him or her get all of that extra energy out. If your children are old enough, they can walk the dog together after dinner to get some exercise or you can all go as a family.

  8. Your Family Has Given Pet Ownership a Trial Run "Spend time with pets before acquiring one," Theisen encourages. Pelar suggests offering to take on a weekend of dog sitting in your own home, so kids can experience what it's like to have a animal in their everyday environment. Cats, however, are not a good animal for a pet-sitting experience; a change in environment stresses cats, so it's not a good idea to bring one into your home for the weekend.

  9. Your Entire Family Is On Board "The entire family should be engaged in the adoption of a new pet," says Theisen. If anyone in your house is allergic to animals or doesn't like them, then your family needs to respect that. Pet ownership can be a rewarding experience, but if the whole family doesn't support the idea, then this isn't the right time to get a pet.

  10. You're Prepared to Take on the Responsibility Lastly, if your family is going to get a pet, the adults in the house need to assume responsibility for the animal. Pelar says the appropriate way to think about it is that you are getting a family pet in whose care the children can participate, rather than expecting your children will be the main caretakers. Even if your child shows every sign of readiness, if you're not ready, then it's not the right time.

There are many benefits to having pets. They provide companionship, lessons in responsibility, emotional well-being and countless other perks. However, pet ownership is only a good thing when your family is ready for it. If you're considering bringing an animal into your family, let our experts' advice guide your decision, so your introduction to pet ownership will be the best it can be. Wondering what type of pet would be the best fit? Read Choose the Right Pet for Your Family. Meghan Ross is a freelance writer.





The Value of Children’s Writing

by Peppermint fan, Daniel Olivieri


            The thing about great children’s writing is that it doesn’t leave. Not after five years and not after ten. It welds itself to your psyche and makes itself at home in your cerebellum. The best of the stories and characters that you meet every night before bedtime will hitch a ride with you for the rest of your life, if you let them.

The reason why children’s literature can stay with you is that it shows you the whole universe through the lens of just a few pages. For example, look at the Hundred-acre Wood that housed the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh. A. A. Milne, the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh books, doesn’t tell you that a community of friends makes life worth living because he shows it to you page by page. He shows it when Winnie the Pooh encourages Piglet to stand up to his fears. He shows it when Winnie saves Eeyore from the river. In this character of Eeyore he shows that some people may be pessimistic but that doesn’t mean that they don’t make good friends. Authors create characters and worlds within the covers of their books that show us pieces of ourselves people are going to fall in love, whether they are reading about the Hundred Acre Wood or Middle Earth. These stories have the power to put people on the same side, to have different people all go through the same journey.

            This is one of the most powerful abilities of the story: bringing people together. Children’s writers have the opportunity to help draw similarities between the parents who are reading the books after a long day at the office and the children who are hoping they will be allowed to stay up for one more chapter. These books are vessels that do not teach, but rather show their reader lessons. They display morals that children need to hear because they are young enough to remember them and parents need to rehear because they are busy enough to forget them. For example, “‘What day is it?’ asked Pooh. ‘It’s today.’ Squeaked Piglet. ‘My favorite day,” said Pooh.” This doesn’t outright tell you anything about enjoying life. Rather, it puts two characters who love life front of you and allows you to decide whether you want to be like them or not (hint, the correct answer is “Yes, I do want to be like them”). It’s easy to lose touch with these little philosophies of life between your 7:30 latte and your 8:15 meeting with accounting. Experiencing them with your children can remind you of how important they are.

            The best children’s writing also helps people to deal with the problems of life. In the poem “Whatif” Shel Silverstein confronts nocturnal anxieties not with logic or with anger, but with humor and rhymes. He shows the reader about the fears people have before falling asleep.

“Whatif I get beat up?

Whatif there's poison in my cup?

Whatif I start to cry?

Whatif I get sick and die?

Whatif I flunk that test?

Whatif green hair grows on my chest?”

            This gives us the chance to laugh at our worries and use laughter as a way to banish them, or at least begin to deal with them. As Mark Twain wrote, “Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.”

            But not only does Shel Silverstein convince his readers that their fears can be seen as funny, he also shows us that our fears are universal. Once you know that you aren’t the only one who stays up worrying it isn’t so daunting to do so. You know that even if you are the only one in your bedroom as you lie awake, you are not alone. You have Shel SIlverstein and everyone else who understands that poem on your side.

            Shel Silverstein’s rhymes and humor don’t only appeal to kids and soft-hearted adults. In fact, they appeal to people who are seen as quite the opposite of children and soft-hearted adults. His song, “A Boy Named Sue” was an absolute hit at the San Quentin prison when Johnny Cash performed it there. This shows that the roughest sector of society,prison inmates, have that same love of stories and rhyme that made The Giving Tree the classic it is. The only difference is that the song came packaged in the cowboy hat and square jaw of Johnny Cash and contained a swear word or two to make it accessible.

            So there are some of the many powers that belong to children’s writing. It can introduce you to new friends, even if those friends are fictional characters. It can remind you of the simple lessons that drip through the cracks of your life. It can be a window for looking at your fears. It can even bring out the same emotions in convicts as it does in first graders. But most of all it’s just fun to sit beside a kid and let the words kidnap your mind and hoist you up into worlds full of anthropomorphic bears, silly problems, and boys named Sue.



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