Parents are forever in a dilemma about the question “Can we get a dog or a cat?” from their kids. Most parents decide on not getting pets owing to perceived health concerns such as allergies and infections, the additional responsibility that they will have to take up and other such reasons. However, research suggests that having a pet is actually good for your children. Also children love their pets unconditionally and for good reason. Creatures large and small teach them lessons of delight, and offer a special kind of companionship.
Parents who have themselves had pets in their childhood or have grown up in close proximity of animals are more likely to make pets a part of their child’s life. Children are naturally drawn to animals and are compassionate towards critters of all kinds. Having pets around naturally teaches your kids responsibility and empathy, the importance of being kind and gentle. They also learn to help out with the easier jobs such as pouring food. This will make your toddler realise that animals like humans also need food, shelter, love and attention.
Research has also shown that having pets around the house helps foster your child’s emotional, cognitive, social, and physical development. Lets see how having pets in the house can actually benefit your child.
Benefits of having pets in the House
Help with Learning: Children are often seen to be reading to their pets and even explaining what they have just read just as they would do to a human. In fact, in one study children were asked to read in front of a peer, an adult and a dog. Researchers monitored the stress levels in each case and found that kids were most relaxed around the animal and not the humans. Educators have long been bringing in therapy animals into schools to help developmentally challenged kids to learn.
Provide Comfort: Animals are a great source of comfort for your kids and even yourself. Most kids naturally turn to their pets in moments of sadness, anger, or even when they had a secret to share. Parents find kids with pets to be less withdrawn and anxious as it gives them something to talk about. In times of sadness also kids tend to turn to their pets and can often be seen to derive comfort out of simple acts such as petting them or being curled up with them.
Lesson in Bereavement: This is an inevitable part of having a pet in the house. When the pet passes away your child will inevitably feel pain of loss and hurt. But this also helps them to learn how to cope with this loss during the bereavement period.
Self Esteem: Pets show unconditional love which can act as a great boost to your child’s self esteem. Positive self esteem also comes to your child through the satisfaction of completing the responsibilities towards the pet and caring for the pet’s needs.
Physical Activity: In this day of TV and video games having a pet would provide you a good way in which to get your kid to go out and play. Research shows that children with pets are generally healthier than children who do not have kids. Going out and playing with the pet also gives your child the chance to fight childhood obesity. Physical activity makes your child more alert and less likely to get bored and irritable.
Lesson in Patience: Bonding with a new pet can often take time for your child. Your little one learns the lessons in patience as the pet settles down into your home and also your child becomes comfortable with the pet. Also during training your child will learn that everything takes time to be learnt and this can also serve as a good example in patience for him or her.
Social Skills: Dogs have often been seen as amazing social “ice breakers”. Setting aside a day in the week to take your dog out as a family can greatly help your child’s social skills as he or she sees you interacting with others.
Apart from these your child can have their basic emotional and physical needs fulfilled by a pet, including comfort, contact, love and affection. Research has also shown that children from dog-owning homes (during their first year of life) have fewer ear infections and respiratory tract infections, and require fewer antibiotics.
What To Keep In Mind
Before you decide to get a pet make sure to understand few things related to pet care and responsibility to avoid any problems later on. Very young children cannot be expected to take care of pets without assistance. They can help, but you need to assume that if your child is below 5 years of age you or your partner will have to be doing most of the pet care. Think carefully whether you are up for all the training with your pet when you’re having to deal with the same with your toddler.
Very young children (3-4 years old) do not always understand how to handle pets gently and also run the risk of injuries if the pet retaliates, even if unintentionally. So they will need to be constantly monitored and should not be left on their own with pets no matter how well behaved either of them seem.
In case of older children it is very important to talk about responsibility and permanence of getting a pet. Be sure that your child has given it consistent thought and has an understanding that a pet will require daily care and not just playtime. Even if your child has committed to the work and responsibility only get a pet if you yourself are ready to step in if your child does not.
Getting a pet is no small decision and you should ideally involve your whole family and especially your child in each step of the process, including selecting the right pet for your family.