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Children and Wildlife
Not all animals are appropriate candidates for mutually caring relationships with young children. As Susan Gilchrist writes:
It may be important to respect the feelings of animals and avoid causing them pain unnecessarily, but it is also important to see that wild animals do not belong as pets in people houses.
Gilchrist's article, Teaching Young Children About Wildlife adapted on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, includes thoughtful writing and many structured activities that can help you focus young children on your local wildlife and highlight the ways wild animals are different from — and should be treated differently than — family pets and working animals such as guide dogs.
St. Francis of Assisi
The Blessing of the Animals done in many Unitarian Universalist congregations is inspired by a Catholic tradition related to St. Francis of Assisi. Find out more about St. Francis on the American Catholic website. The site also includes some stories about St. Francis, including "St. Francis and the Wolf."
Talking with Children about Death
About Death: A Unitarian Universalist Book for Kids. About Death presents a gentle, yet unsentimental, story about how a family deals with the death of their beloved dog. The story is followed by a series of questions a child might pose about death and its aftermath, particularly the rituals and cultural customs that accompany the death of a person. The answers to these questions, like the story that proceeds them, are frank and respectful of the child's curiosity. At the same time, both the story and the questions are illustrated by lovely watercolors that say, without words, yes, death makes us sad. A short poem that follows reminds us that death is a part of life. Ages 5 and up.
Death of a Pet
In case a child mentions the death of a pet and children are upset or have questions, you may like to have on hand the book, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad (New York: Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 1987). A little boy appreciates his pet cat's life while coping with its death.