How children benefit from pet ownership

While getting a pet of any kind may feel like a natural progression for your family, or simply a ‘nice’ idea at the time, you’ll soon discover that your new householder has so much to give, and to teach you, in return for your care. Whether you’ve chosen a dog, a cat, a rabbit, or a fish, your new pet has the ability to strengthen your family’s bond, and to aid the emotional, physical, and educational development of your children.

Here are just a few of ways that pet ownership could benefit your child, or children…

Forging friendships

Numerous studies have shown that pet ownership can improve kids’ emotional intelligence, and that those who grow up with animals are more compassionate than those who don’t get their first cat, dog, rabbit, or fish until later in life. Your children’s pets are likely to be their very first friends, and the bond that they’ll develop will be one of utter devotion and trust.

Learning how to care for an animal teaches children about the needs of others, and allows them to identify when someone, or something, is feeling happy, sad, or unwell. These social interactions will prove vital in later life, teaching your child how to forge friendships as they approach school age and beyond.

Learning responsibilities

Your child can begin to learn about the responsibilities of pet ownership before your animal comes to stay. Once you’ve chosen the animal you’d like you’re going to need to prepare for his or her arrival, including drawing up a list of jobs, going shopping for essentials, and creating a bed, or safe space, for your pet to reside. Encourage your child to take part in these discussions. What kind of bed would your new pet like? What foods will they eat? What daily activities will you need to complete in order to keep your pet healthy and happy? Engaging your child during those first conversations will give them confidence to take part in pet care and training, and instill in them a sense of responsibility – and importance.

Emotional development

Having a pet can do a lot for a child’s emotional development, and for the emergence of their character and personality. Those who lack confidence, or suffer from anxiety, can often be encouraged to open up to a pet rather than an adult, and may discover a new sense of self that’s been hiding all this time. Pets are incredible stress relievers, and will listen to problems without judgment.

Having an animal of any kind is also a good way to approach the subject of loss. While nobody wants to think about the death of a beloved pet, such an event is an essential part of growing up. The lessons we learn during childhood will shape the kinds of experiences we have as adults. If you’ve recently lost a much-loved pet try not to exclude your child from conversations; listen to their concerns, let them know that it’s okay to grieve, and encourage them to play a part in your pet burial or memorial service. It’s not unhealthy to allow a child to say goodbye to their pet, and valuable lessons can be learned from such an experience.

Improved wellbeing

Pets of any kind can do wonders for a person’s health and happiness, including reduced stress, a lowered heart rate and blood pressure, and improved mental wellbeing; the general feelings of happiness that accompany having an animal can effect our children in the same way they impact our lives. The benefits of having a pet can be felt much further afield too. Having a dog will encourage your child to head outside on a daily basis, and to engage their best friend with games of fetch, catch, and running wild. In an instant, your child is more active than they were beforehand, and enjoying his or her time outdoors. Rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, and other domesticated livestock are similarly fantastic for nurturing a love of nature and the great outdoors, while playing with a cat, bird, or small mammal indoors is still exercise your child may not have been getting before their pet arrived.

Inspiration to learn

Becoming a pet owner can facilitate language development in children, as they spend hours babbling, and then talking to their faithful friends. Animals can also aid cognitive development, as your child strives to learn more about a particular breed and opportunities for play – even grooming an animal can help a child to master simple actions.

Perhaps more subtly, having a pet could help your child during their reading journey, or as they begin to give presentations. Speaking in front of an adult, even a parent, can be daunting, but pets never judge. If your child is a nervous reader, or hates speaking in front of the class, encourage them to practice with only their pet for company; you’ll soon notice a huge leap in their confidence.

From aiding social interactions and inspiring a lifelong addiction to the great outdoors, to providing comfort and encouragement, your new animal is so much more than a pet – he or she is your child’s friend for life.