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Ready For A Pet? 3 Ways to Get Teenagers to Take Care of a Pet

Your Teen editor, Susan Borison, made a surprising impulse buy. After 20 years of her children begging for a dog, she caved. Of course, like all other hopeful parents, she made her children promise that they would take care of the dog. They promised and promised and promised.

But who tends to the dog?

“Everyone has benefitted from having a dog,” says Borison. “But I’m the one who walks her and feeds her. I was warned, but I thought my children would be different.” To be clear, she has no regrets at all. The whole family is in love with Riley. But Susan is the primary care giver.

Taking Care of the Pet They Begged For

Pets provide families with a lot of love, affection, fun, and … extra work. Yes, a brand new pet is a great opportunity to teach adolescents responsibility. Someone needs to walk, feed, and otherwise take care of a pet.

So, how can you ensure that your brood will follow through with all of the promises they made when convincing you to adopt the adorable animal? Start with these three tips for encouraging your teenagers to take care of a pet, courtesy of Dr. Aubrey Fine, a family therapist and author of Faithful Companions.

3 Ways to Make Teens Responsible for the Family Pet:

1. Create a contract.

Of course, you can talk about all of the above until you’re blue in the face, but if your teenager isn’t motivated to take care of a pet, guess who’ll be on the hook? Yep, you.

So, before the pet comes into your home, sit down with your teenager and create a pet care contract. This should include detailed descriptions of your adolescents’ obligations for the pet (feeding, walking, cleaning, etc.) and the consequences if they fail to fulfill them. Google “pet care contract” to find examples. The key, of course, is follow-through.

2. Frame the narrative.

Your adolescent should understand that your new pet is dependent on your family for everything. That means that part of being in the family is caring for Rover.

What’s more, a well-cared-for pet will enrich your family with plenty of affection. There’s more than a little evidence that animals are good for teenagers. In particular, they can bring down teen stress levels (and what teen doesn’t need that!).

3. Don’t nag.

Nagging doesn’t work and just makes everyone frustrated. So, keep it positive. If your teenager is not holding up her end of the bargain, then impose the consequences in your contract (see above).

Ahuva Sunshine is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland and a contributor to Your Teen.

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