The Family Project: With puppy love comes responsibility
Q. My husband just surprised me and our children with an eight-week-old puppy. I think my husband should have talked to me about this first. I know I am going to be the one who is going to take care of this dog, and I am not happy. What should I do?
The panel agreed with the mother that she should have been consulted before the husband brought the puppy home, but the panel first focused on how other decisions are made in the family.
“If it is happening in other situations, this may be something the parents need to discuss before talking about the puppy,” panelist Michael Ramsey said.
Once the issue about decision-making is resolved, panelist Mike Daniels said the conversation should turn to “What is the plan?”
Daniels suggested that the mother begin the conversation with a positive statement, such as, ”What a caring thing to do!” After that, she can add, “But let’s be realistic. Taking care of an eight-week-old puppy is a full-time job.”
Panelist Denise Continenza asked why the mother is assuming that she is the one who is going to take care of the dog: “Is this her first pet, or have there been others she has had to care for?”
“If this is her first experience with a puppy, the mom should do some research on what is needed to care for a puppy, and what resources are available,” panelist Pam Wallace said, adding, “She might also find other options besides giving up the dog, such as dog-sitters or trainers for the first few months.”
Continenza mentioned grandparents or other family members as possible resources.
If the children are old enough, panelist Charise Edwards said the parents could divide up the work and teach the youngsters how to care for the puppy.
“It would also help teach them responsibility. If the first plan doesn’t work, the parents can reassess and make changes,” Edwards said, adding, “It’s not like you can have only one plan.”
Panelist Erin Stalsitz observed that the new pet isn’t going to be a puppy forever.
Whatever decision is made about the puppy, both parents have to agree, Ramsey said, and they need to tell the children about it together.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Charise Edwards, Functional Family Therapist, Valley Youth House.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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