Pets – be they dogs, cats or other animals – are part of many families’ day-to-day life. Pets benefit human lives in more ways than one: namely, reducing stress, reducing cardiac frequency and blood pressure, improving emotional state and reducing depressive symptoms. How do pets affect the crucial years of a child’s developmental health?
How many times have we heard parents say they adopted their pet so that their child would learn about responsibility by taking care of them? Sure, taking care of family pets and playing with them should become part of your children’s chores, but remember that a minor should not be solely responsible for a pet. Ultimately, parents are the responsible parties, but that doesn’t mean that simple tasks can’t be passed on to the kids, such as feedings and play-time. It’s up to parents to teach property responsibility, pets receive the rewards.
Walking the dog, playing with the dog or cat, cleaning the rabbit or hamster box–these are all physical activities. In today’s world, where children have fun with television, mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets, any chances to move are good. Physical activity prevents diseases like obesity, which, these days, are more and more common in young people.
Caring for and interacting with pets seems to improve a child’s ability to develop empathy and show affection. Parents within pet-owning families recognize these traits when children comfort their pet during a scary event like a thunderstorm or invite their pets into their games and social behaviors.
Additionally, pets themselves can comfort the child who is frightened or has a secret that can’t be shared with others. After all, pets are non-judgemental pet.
Even shy and introverted children find that pets are the most natural “links” to other people. They and are far more likely to interact socially by “talking pets” with someone else who is a pet owner.
There are no studies, yet, proving the direct connection between having a pet and increased learning skills, but there is evidence that suggest that pets promote an environment that allows children to increase their learning ability. Increased focus, motivation, concentration, relaxation, stress reduction and the existence of a more positive social atmosphere all support increased learning.
Here is an interesting idea: some countries have programs where children read to dogs in animal shelters, improving the children’s reading skills as well as proving animals calm attention and social interaction (which will need when they’re adopted). Children are less shy or embarrassed about reading to animals since they don’t judge and their attention to the story remains the same. This results in positive feedback, higher self-esteem and improved reading skills. Kids with pets at home should be encouraged to read stories to them – our pets will grow to love their bedtime stories!
Whether it’s because they plan fun activities as a group, because they take their dog out for a walk, play with the cat indoors or they see feeding time as a family moment, pets strengthen the bonds we have with our loved ones. Your pet will help you connect to those close to you because he’s a social member who doesn’t judge, doesn’t criticize and is always there for the good times and the bad. Pets are definitely part of the family and definitely good for your children.
Author: Andreia Dias, DVM & Blogger
Cardiovascular reactivity and the presence of pets, friends, and spouses: the truth about cats and dogs https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14Wff-nfcrivxnaqlYP1Bq1p1GiEkoHEnMm0xnRoAtyo/edit#gid=2671258
Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/