Children And Pets!

By Cinda Chatfield, BA, BICM

If you know me personally, you know that I’m a lover of all creatures, human and animals! I believe that living with animals is one of the best ways to bring unconditional love into your home. I have two wonderful dogs that bring me such joy and peace… when they’re not barking to be let out, of course. I’m a huge advocate for having pets in your home, and I can vouch from first-hand experience how it has made a positive impact on my children and family.

Yet, many parents of young children have the debate over whether or not introducing pets to their home is a good idea. While I think animals make lovely additions to the home, it is very important to take the necessary time to consider whether a pet is a good fit for your home and lifestyle! Pets are generally great with children. They tend to understand children’s needs and will generally (depending on breed) exhibit protective and nurturing behaviors towards babies, toddlers and children. Having said that, it is important to choose a mild-mannered animal that will show great care and love for your babies. Babies and fur-babies are so cute when they become friends, so start the relationship off by introducing your child to your pet in a gradual and well-monitored way. Allow them to have supervised, yet limited time together so that your pet will get used to your baby grabbing its tail and your baby can get familiar with the feeling of multiple loving-licks.

For children that are a bit older, having a pet is a great way for them to have something to look after and care for. This offers an opportunity for your children to gain an amount of responsibility, and the pet’s needs can encourage them to stick to a schedule of walking, feeding, etc. This will also help form a bond between your pet and your child, which provides your child a healthy way to decompress when stressed, cuddle when sad and talk to when they feel no one else will listen. Pets have incredible soothing qualities and can be great emotional-aids if your child is prone to anxiety. They can also teach kids the incredible gift of empathy toward other animals and humans. Having said that, remember that although you wrapped a cute bow around the pet and presented it to your child as the perfect holiday gift, the pet actually belongs to you, the adult. Ultimately, it’s your time, resources and responsibility to care for the pet, so make sure that you can provide for them with your schedule! Pets are wonderful sources of love, and they deserve as much care and attention as they will certainly give to you! Consider the best options for your family, and if it fits, go for it!

Final thoughts:

Many families with young children go back-and-forth on the idea of having a pet in the home. From my experience, I can say that there’s nothing like having the enthusiastic greeting from a furry friend, or another pet to care for such as a bird, reptile or fish. Pets are great for kids, but make sure your entire family is ready for the responsibility!

2015: The Year Of The Techy Toddlers

By Cinda Chatfield, BA, BICM

I know you’ve seen them too. That beautiful family out in public, at the beach, the park, the mall or a restaurant. I can’t help but notice the love that emanates from them, so once again, I wonder why they’re so close in proximity… yet so disconnected! Recently, I observed the portrait of “modern-day family-time”: Dad on his laptop, kids playing on iPads, and mom talking on her smartphone. Please people, I encourage you to step away from your devices and spend quality time with the people in front of you!

Common sense would lead you to believe that when you take your family out for an afternoon or an evening; you would actually engage and enjoy each other’s company. But more and more, families appear to be “isolated-together” as each member devotes hefty amounts of energy to whatever electronic device is in front of them. I’ve actually observed, as I’m sure many of you have, that techy toys are in the hands of toddlers, children, teenagers and parents. A small part of me hopes that at the very least they are face-timing each other on their phones, as they sit across from one another at their table! I know it sounds old-fashioned to be an advocate for conversation, and trust me, I use my smart-phone and tablet as much as any other mom; however I find the readily decline of human interaction very sad. What happened to a “healthy work-life balance?” Don’t people realize that the lack of human contact, conversation and interaction impacts how we function in relationships now and in the future? Have you ever heard the term “emotionally stunted?” Now we can add on to that and make reference to “socially-emotionally stunted” personalities. Kids model the behavior that they see and experience first-hand. So if we, as parents, are constantly checking our devices for whatever reason, they will grow up thinking its normal to have an electronic appendage.

It’s tempting to profit from our ability to be constantly connected, updated, and working, but I encourage parents to try to leave work at work as much as possible. Just because you can answer an email in the middle of dinner-time, doesn’t mean that you should. It will be tough at first to break the habit, but it will be worth it and eventually your colleagues will learn how to respect your personal, family time.

Remember, the phrase goes “Live In The Moment”, not “SnapChat the moment”. Even at home, I hear of parents having to resort to texting to announce to their kids that dinner is ready. I know it’s tempting to allow your children to play games in the restaurant to keep them quiet, but they can play with each other, which can be fun, silly and memorable! Can you imagine the laughter that engaging with one another could create? Laughing is one of the most natural ways to bring people together on all levels and continue to build relationships, bonds and security. All I’m saying is: set some boundaries! For example, once the food is served and the meal is finished, if the adults want to sit and chat together, then—and only then, would be the opportunity to give the children the last 10 or 15 minutes to play on their iPads or phones.

Technology is here to stay and clearly is an integral part of our daily lives, personally and professionally. It’s actually important to introduce it to your children and teach them proper use. However, teaching boundaries and self-control is equally important, as technology should always come second to making genuine human connections. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the new-found awareness you all will have for one another when the screens are off and the phones put away. Teach your children that a well-rounded life favors moderation in all aspects. While there is an appropriate time to get onto our devices, nothing will compare to the time we get to look into the beautiful faces of our children, spouses and friends. Show your kids how to stop and smell the roses, because you can’t smell them through your phone…yet.

Final Thoughts:

Incorporating appropriate use of technology in your parenting is understandably difficult as it takes up an ever-increasing part of our lives. Instead of teaching your children that technology is “all bad” or “all great”, show them that it is possible to engage with electronics in moderation. Encourage conversation at the dinner table or during the beach trip! Chances are you’ll be surprised at the beautiful or funny gems your children have to say. And yes, you can tweet those gems the second quality time is over. If you have any other questions about parenting or need advice, write me at [email protected]!