While it’s true that most children love animals, it’s not always clear if that’s enough to make them good pet owners, too. After all, it’s often the adults in the house who end up having to take care of an animal once the excitement of a new pet has worn off. But while there are potential downsides associated with pet ownership, many parents feel that these drawbacks are far outweighed by the value that pets add to their kids’ lives.
Doctors and child psychologists seem to agree: studies from all over the world show that children raised in homes with family pets experience a wide range of benefits impacting their social, emotional, intellectual, and even physical development.
8 Reasons Why Your Child Should Have A Pet
If you’ve been thinking about getting a cat, dog, rabbit, bird, fish, or other kind of pet for your child, here are a few reasons from the “pro” column that may help you make your decision:
1. Pets teach your child the value of responsibility. Giving your child age-appropriate pet-rearing tasks will teach your son or daughter the importance of being accountable and disciplined, traits which can translate into several other areas in life when the child is older (such as engaging in academics, learning to drive, and getting a job).
2. Pets help children understand that there are consequences for their actions. As a corollary to learning personal responsibility, children with pets may be more likely to understand cause and effect in a practical way. If an animal isn’t properly taken care of, it can become misbehaved or ill. Equally, if a child is too rough with their pet, the animal may avoid them and instead seek the company of quieter, calmer household members.
3. Pets can help boost your child’s self-esteem. Child psychology studies tend to show that raising a pet can help make a child feel better about herself or himself. Having a designated role to help raise a family pet can give a child a sense of accomplishment, of something to be proud of.
4. Pets offer your child an increased opportunity to exercise. Dogs, in particular, are perfect pets for increasing the physical activity of the entire family. Kids can enjoy the health benefits of going on walks and running around in the yard while also spending quality time with their animal companion. Research also indicates that on average, children with pets exercise more than their pet-less peers.
5. Children with pets are less likely to have certain health conditions. Studies suggest that children who grow up in households with animals are less likely to have allergies, asthma, dermatitis, and other immune-related problems. Health benefits of pets extend beyond childhood years, too. Research shows that owning a pet can even lower your risk of heart disease.
6. Pets can help relieve stress and anxiety for both children and adults. The physical act of petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce subjective anxiety. In children, pets are often a comforting remedy to periods of loneliness, bereavement, or high stress, such as during stressful family events like divorce, moving, or the death of a loved one.
7. Pets can enhance a child’s emerging reading skills and comprehension. Studies have revealed that young children often feel more comfortable reading aloud to animals than to adults, likely because animals aren’t perceived as judgmental. The soothing and fun effect of reading to pets has even spurred several organizations around the country that connect kids with dogs, cats, horses, and other animals to read to.
8. Owning a pet can help children learn how to be more cooperative and empathetic. Raising a pet allows children to assume care-taking roles, which helps them learn the concept of understanding how others feel. Children with pets empathize better with both animals and other children. Studies show that kids with pets also tend to be more well-adjusted socially and more popular, suggesting that raising an animal can help your child develop important social skills like sharing and cooperation.
If you do decide to welcome a pet into your home, particularly a cat or dog, remember that it’s important to get everyone involved in raising the animal. The more cooperative your family is, the more likely it is that you’ll have a healthy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved pet.
For instance, older kids and teens can help with tasks such as walking the dog, changing kitty litter, cleaning out the animal’s cage, and cleaning up waste in the yard. Toddlers can assist by picking up toys and filling up water dishes. Perhaps most importantly, everyone should participate in obedience training. Pets do best with consistent discipline–a valuable lesson that kids can learn, too.
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