Animals are sometimes a controversial topic among families.Your kids want one, but maybe you don’t. Animals are a lot of work and time, and you worry that you will be stuck with most of the work. Animals are so much more than just an extra chore. The benefits of having and being around animals outweigh the annoyances associated with them. Animals can help kids in many ways, in the home, and outside the home.
At home, having a pet is a great way to teach your child some important life lessons and build aspects of their character. Having a pet teaches kids about responsibility; putting your kids in charge of their basic needs like feeding them, giving them clean water, brushing them, and cleaning up after them, will teach them basic responsibility and accountability. Being around a pet also teaches behavioral awareness. Kids have to be aware of their actions and how their behavior makes their pet react, which hopefully helps them learn how to be calm and gentle. They also learn healthy habits like exercise while making sure their pet gets plenty of play time.
One of the more serious life lessons owning a pet often teaches children is about death. Unfortunately animals have much shorter lives, and a child who experiences the death of a beloved pet will learn about the life cycle, and how to grieve. Through the high and lows of pet ownership, children can learn a lot about life.
If you can’t have a pet at your house, a great way to get your kids involved with animals is through volunteering. Getting involved in volunteerism is important for learning about community and empathy. Kids learn personal values that help with their overall personal development. By volunteering with animals, kids get some of the benefits they would get by owning an animal, while also learning about community needs and helping others.
Animals have such positive influence on children that professionals who work with children often use therapy animals in their work. Dogs are one of the most common animals used in therapy work, as their intelligence and instinct to please make them extremely trainable in different types of work. Therapy dogs are often used to visit sick children in the hospital, as interacting with a loving and calm dog can boost emotional spirit. Therapy dogs have also been used in libraries and schools to help kids learn to read; their non judgemental nature creates a positive environment where kids aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
One of the more involved therapy animals activities is working with kids on the autism spectrum. Kids with autism often have a hard time connecting with their peers, and animals can help relieve some of the social stress these kids may feel. Some families have service dogs specifically for their child with autism. These service dogs are highly trained, and have the same access rights as other service dogs such as seeing eye dogs and medical alert dogs.
Dogs aren’t the only animals helping children with autism. Horses are also a common therapy animal used to help children with autism, as well as helping children and adults with other challenges whether they be mental or physical. Therapy horses provide a low stress environment for those who struggle with social interaction. Children can develop relationships with horses similar to those with humans, and the practice interaction with them can help kids learn useful social skills. They also help provide gentle exercise for kids with poor motor skills.
However you feel about animals, it’s undeniable the positive effect they have on children. They teach important life skills in the home and in volunteering, and therapy animals making a huge difference in the lives of children in schools, hospitals, and those with disabilities. Find a way to get your children involved with animals, whether as just a pet, or in the community.
Bio: Mila is a writer with a BA in English Linguistics living in beautiful Boise, ID. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on twitter and instagram!