Adopting and caring for a pet is an excellent way to teach your kids about responsibility. Showing them what it means to be responsible for another creature's survival will help drive home life lessons such as the importance of patience, kindness, and attentiveness. More importantly, children who learn how to care for an animal also learn to treat people the same way.

When choosing a pet, remember to factor in the developmental stages your children are currently in. If your kids agree to care for it themselves, without help from adults, choose an animal with simple needs. Also keep in mind how this new addition to your family will fit into your home and lifestyle. Take note of certain allergies that family members might have; some animals can induce allergic symptoms such as eczema, hay fever, or asthma.

Before bringing the pet home, discuss its needs with your children. Books on pet care can help them understand what is expected of them. Here are a few tips on establishing ground rules so that your kids will have a positive pet experience.

Still weighing the pros and cons of getting a pet? Check out these features on FN:
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(First published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, Good Family section as "Teacher Says" in March 2008; adapted for use in Female Network)
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