If your child has begged you for an animal friend, you might want to consider saying yes. Pets bring many benefits to children’s lives and owning a furry friend also furthers their development.
Here’s why pets are great for kids:
Pets are loyal companions
No matter what is happening elsewhere in their lives, kids can always rely on the unconditional love of their pets. Dogs in particular are great emotional support buddies; friends who are always happy to see you and love a snuggle. It can be comforting for children to stroke and be with their pets.
Pets encourage learning about responsibility
Helping take care of a pet is a great learning opportunity for kids. Feeding animals or cleaning out their cage gives children a sense of responsibility and a feeling of achievement. Kids can also feel ‘important’ if they have a special task assigned to them, e.g. feeding the rabbits every evening. Learning to care for a pet also helps develop their social skills as they are helping to look after someone else.
Animals strengthen family bonds
Adding a pet to the family home can nurture family bonds. Taking the dog for walks together offers opportunities to talk with teenagers, and throwing a ball in the park is fun for small children. In general, pets become another member of the family, and someone else (albeit furry!) for children to enjoy spending time with.
Pets lower anxiety and ease loneliness
Animals become ’emotional support’ friends for those that need them because they are calming and friendly to be around. Children can find calm by being with their pet- many kids enjoy reading a story with their dog or cat, or hugging together on the sofa. While child and teen friendships can often be fractious, a pet’s love will never change. Even guinea pigs make friendly pets for younger children- they will happily sit on a child’s lap every day and may even climb up to sit on their shoulders!
Having pets lowers allergies in kids
Strange, yet true! Having animals in the home has been shown to lower the chance of developing allergies. Children who are exposed to animals in their early life will have their immune systems boosted by being in contact with bacteria from the pets (e.g. a dog licking a child’s face).
Children with pets enjoy better emotional wellbeing
A 2017 study showed that pet ownership benefits children’s emotional stability- and that companion animals have been found ‘to rival and even surpass humans’ ability to provide self-esteem, calmness, soothing, and acceptance’.
Pets teach children empathy
Children are, by nature, fairly self-involved. Family life mainly revolves around taking care of them and running them to school/ activities/ parties/ you name it! Pets encourage children’s developing brains to consider the care of someone else’s needs and nurture that quality for the rest of their lives.
The circle of life
As sad as it is to lose a pet, the experience teaches children valuable lessons about the life cycle and coping with grief. Learning and development comes with life experiences, both positive and negative. Having a pet from young until their passing exposes children to understanding birth, illness and the ending of life.