This is a classic situation for many parents, your teen comes up to you begging for a pet, but you just don’t know if that’s the best decision for the family. You don’t want to crush your teen’s dreams, but you also know that owning a pet comes with a bunch of new problems. If you’re considering getting a pet for your teenager, consider these benefits and risks.
Getting a pet can be extremely healthy for a teenager. Here’s why.
Allowing your teen to have a pet can teach responsibility. Your teen will have to regularly maintain the animal, no matter what it is. If it’s a turtle or fish, that means cleaning the tank and its water. If it’s a dog or cat, that means cleaning up its waste and giving it daily care. If your teen wants a pet, they will learn a lot about how to care for a living thing every day, improving their attention, consideration, and overall responsibilities.
Let your teen know in advance that if they can’t rise to responsibility of taking care of their pet, you will have to return it. If you need help encouraging your teen to keep up with their pet-related chores, check out these tips.
Pets are excellent companions for teenagers. Having a pet means your teenager will always have a friend they can spend time with. This is great if they have to spend a lot of time on their own, because they can invest that time in rewarding relationship with their pet.
Studies show that spending time with animals has a considerable effect on mood. A lot of teenagers report having lower stress levels and more success managing anxiety and depression symptoms as a result of having a pet. If your teen struggles with their mood, a pet could greatly improve their life.
Having a pet can bring new challenges into your home as well. Be sure not to overlook these common risks.
Big Time Commitment
Having a pet will probably take daily commitments, which a lot of teens might not be able to offer. With busy school schedules, jobs, and other after class activities, owning a pet might be too draining on a busy teen. This could lead to either neglect, or burnout.
Your Teen Might Move Away
If your teen is planning on moving to a new city for college, as many do, they won’t be around to take care of their pet. Not a lot of colleges allow students to keep pets on campus unless they are emotional support animals. In this case, the burden of responsibility suddenly falls on the parent in the coming years. This could be difficult if you don’t want to be a caretaker for your teen’s pet.
With food, toys, vet visits, vaccinations, or neutering operations all costing money, the overall price of the pet might be more than you anticipate. If your teen is not prepared to pay for their pet’s wellbeing, it could cut into their savings, or they might have to cut corners to keep ownership affordable. This is not a good situation because both the pet and the teen have to deal with setbacks.
What to Ask Yourself
After weighing some of the pros and cons, parents need to ask themselves this critical question.
Am I personally willing to get a pet? Can I make that lifestyle change for my teen?
If the answer yes, you can work with your teen to take care of the new animal in your life. There will certainly be days when your teen is too busy to take care of their pet and might need to ask you for assistance. Especially if they go out of town to visit a friend or go on a school trip. Plus, your teen probably won’t be able to take the pet with them to college, so you should be prepared for that situation.
If you answered no, I am not willing to get a pet, you might want to have a conversation with your teen about waiting until they are older to own an animal. For example, you could say, “I really want you to be happy and have the rewarding experience of a pet, but I can’t see a pet living in this household, especially if you’re going to be busy so often and I will end up taking care of it on occasion. I’m not willing to do that, and it wouldn’t be fair to the pet. So, why don’t you wait until you are renting or owning your own place, and then you can get any pet you like.”
We Hope This Helps
Owning a pet is a big decision, so it’s important to weight the benefits and risks carefully before making a decision. We hope this guide can help you get closer to your ultimate choice. It’s good to remember, even if the answer is “no” right now, your teen can always get a pet later on in life.
You don’t want to crush your teen’s dreams, but you also know that owning a pet comes with a bunch of new problems. Here’s the pros and cons.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.