Pets can be an important lesson for kids to teach them responsibility and compassion. Fish are an easy introduction into the world of pet ownership, and having your child care for and feed a fish can help them get used to the concept of completing tasks on time.
However, knowing how and when to trust your child with that responsibility can be tricky. How do you know when the time is right? How much of the responsibility should you take on? What fish should you get them? Is pet ownership even right for your child?
When deciding whether or not to trust your child with the responsibility of a fish, it is important to know your child. The fact of the matter is every child is different, and there is no one size fits all solution.
First of all, you should make sure your child wants a pet to begin with. If the child doesn’t care about the fish, they might feel bitter and resentful about the new responsibility suddenly being forced on them. Talk with your child, and ask how they would feel about being asked to take care of a fish.
Another concern is whether or not your child can understand that the fish is a living creature, just like anything else. If your child is going to tap on the glass and try to take it out of the tank to play with it, it might be a good idea to wait until they are capable of understanding why they shouldn’t do the things you tell them not to do.
Another matter to consider is how much responsibility you can take on. We can all agree that expecting your kid to do all the work is a bit unreasonable, but the point of the exercise is to teach them responsibility.
One basic job you can give them is feeding the fish. Feeding is a simple job that nonetheless teaches them how to manage a schedule and value their responsibility. However, this doesn’t mean you have to do everything else by yourself.
Asking your child to help pick out gravel and ornaments can be a fun bonding activity. In addition, while your child probably shouldn’t be cleaning out the tank themselves, asking them to help with minor parts of the process like cleaning filters and ornaments can teach teamwork and help foster a bond between you and your child.
However, before you can do any of this, you need to decide what kind of fish you should get your child. Which fish are low-maintenance enough that it doesn’t overwhelm your child, but beautiful enough that it’s worth the effort?
The answer, ultimately, lies with your child. Talking to your child about which fish they might like, and briefing them on the responsibility that certain fish entail, is going to determine whether pet ownership becomes a fun bonding experience or an annoying slog.
However, if you would like a starting point, smaller fish like goldfish and betta fish are usually easier to take care of. “The guppy is one of the most colorful and peaceful fish species, perfect for kids and beginners”, according to AquariumFishCity.
In general, you’re looking for fish who are docile in nature and don’t require so much space or attention as some bigger fish might. I encourage you to do your research and talk to your child to determine which fish is right for your family.
When deciding whether or not to trust your child with the responsibility of a pet, it is important to discuss with your child, and make them feel like the responsibility of pet ownership is something they want, rather than being forced to do.
If you don’t feel your child is ready for the challenges that caring for a fish entails, then don’t force one on them anyways. Use your own best judgement and knowledge of your child to create a situation that you can all enjoy.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck.