Being a parent is a hectic job. Adding pet ownership on top of that can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the authors of Parenting with Pets: The Magic of Raising Children with Animals, Christine Hamer and Margaret Hevel, feel that, though it may add to your busy schedule, raising children with animals can be a life-changing, worthwhile experience for your children. There is growing evidence that a child’s involvement with a pet will have a multifaceted impact on his or her growth and development. Hamer and Hevel assert that pets can teach children many lessons that parents would otherwise have a difficult time teaching. Pets can present parents with numerous teachable moments, allowing a parent to teach their child about tolerance, responsibility, compassion, unconditional love, trust, and even faith.

Beyond teaching life lessons, as numerous studies have shown with adults, pets can provide many health benefits for children. Children suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety, just as adults do. Pets can provide a conduit for the unexpressed emotions of children. A family pet can provide stability for adolescents at a time when the world seems topsy-turvy. Pets accepts a child just as they are, and children need such unconditional understanding:

“At Purdue University Center for the Human-Animals Bond, Dr. Alan Beck found that nearly seventy percent of children confide in their pets. The children said that they knew their pets would not betray them or their secrets. In general, children gave animals high scores for listening, reassurance, appreciation, and companionship. They also believed that their pets provided them with unconditional love. One 1985 Michigan study found that seventy-five percent of children, ages ten to fourteen, turned to their feathered or furry friend when they felt upset.” –Excerpt from Parenting with Pets.

But, in Parenting with Pets, Hamer and Hevel don’t just put forth the idea that pets can be an important part of raising children. The authors also provide parents with practical information for making the best choices about in pet ownership. They devote an entire chapter to choosing a pet, detailing different types of pets that are appropriate for children and what children can learn from that specific type of pet. This section also provides information concerning the financial costs and the time commitment necessary for each pet type, helping parents make appropriate decisions for their family’s situation. And for those parents whose lives don’t allow for pet ownership, Hamer and Hevel also provide advice on providing other types of opportunities for their children, including going to a city park, a local nature preserve, or even simply looking at the insects on the sidewalk. Even through these are limited interactions with animals, Hamer and Hevel assert that children can learn important life lessons from any experience with animals.

Overall, Parenting with Pets gives guidelines on how to tap into the valuable opportunities that pets present for a family and provides new information on how pets enrich the relationship between parent and child. This is an important book for anyone getting ready to own a pet, or anyone who already has a pet in his or her life. And the rewards a family will gain from investing time with pets are priceless and life changing.