AD | Collaborative post
Adopting a pet may be one of the best things you can do for your child and your family. Many people take pet ownership for granted but children actually benefit significantly from having a pet in the household as they grow up. While animals require time and attention, you shouldn’t overlook the advantages they bring. In this article, we’ll look at ten of the benefits of growing up with pets. Regrettably, the joy of owning a pet goes hand-in-hand with the heartbreak of losing one, and because a pet’s death might be their first time losing a loved one, your children need to learn how to cope with loss. Further below, we are also looking into ways to help them navigate the grieving process.
1. Pets Help to Prevent Respiratory Illnesses
You may be concerned that fur or dander will make your pets sick. However, some research shows that children who have pets may be less likely to develop allergies and asthma. One Finnish study found that babies who lived with dogs in their first year were less likely to have respiratory tract infections or symptoms than those who didn’t. Children who live with pets are also likely to display fewer signs of depression and anxiety.
2. Pets Encourage Exercise and Play
In this day and age, it can be difficult to pull children away from screens. However, adopting a dog can change that. Not only will the dog be fun to play with but they’ll need to be walked a few times a day. Studies show that children who have dogs in the home get 11 minutes more of exercise per day, on average. It has even been suggested that owning a dog can help to reduce childhood obesity.
3. Pets Teach Children Empathy
Pets largely depend on their owners to meet their needs. Therefore, your child will learn to identify what the animal needs based on their habits and behavior at any given time. They’ll be able to tell when the animal is hungry, tired, scared, or frustrated and they’ll learn how to respond and care for them in those circumstances.
4. Pets Teach Children How to Be Responsible
Even a three-year-old can give a dog water or help to fill up a food bowl. Over time, they’ll learn to groom the animal or take it for walks. Accomplishing these simple tasks can impart confidence and teach responsibility.
5. Pets Can Help to Improve Language Skills
Children who are still learning to talk often engage with pets via babble. This may be amusing but it also helps with socialization and verbal skills. Even though the pet won’t understand what the child is saying, their presence stimulates the child to talk to another living being. The pet will provide emotional support and act as a non-judgmental audience.
6. Pets Are Particularly Helpful for Children with Autism and ADHD
It’s not uncommon for dogs to be used in therapy for children with an autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If your child is on the spectrum, you may want to consider adopting a dog since dogs can:
- Reduce meltdowns
- Reduce anxiety and aggressive actions
- Encourage social interaction
- Increase verbal communication and vocabulary
- Increase their willingness to try something new
- Increase their ability to face scary situations
Therapy dogs can also help children with ADD or ADHD to:
- Utilize excess energy
- Develop consistency and a routine
- Cope with depression or isolation
- Manage new social situations
7. Pets Are a Source of Comfort
Pets offer unconditional love. No matter what your child shares with them, they’ll comfort and support them. Children who have pets tend to be less withdrawn and anxious than those who don’t. That’s likely because they have a safe space to express their feelings and share their fears.
8. Pets Bring the Family Together
Animals have a way of drawing families closer. Everyone can participate in walking, feeding, playing, and grooming. Even just watching kittens or puppies play can be a fun family activity. The time you spend with your children and the pet will help everyone to relax and bond.
9. Pets Support Social and Emotional Health
A study by the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute found that children who grow up with dogs in the home have better social and emotional health than those who don’t. After surveying 1,646 parents of children ages two to five, the researchers found that actively engaging with dogs was associated with fewer difficulties with personal conduct and interpersonal interactions. They were also more likely to cooperate with others and share.
What If the Pet Dies?
Many parents worry about what they’ll say to their children if the pet dies. Whether through age, illness, or injury, pets will eventually die. If your children are still young when this happens, they may not understand the implications of a pet’s death. For children under the age of seven, you’ll generally want to focus on:
- Staying calm and being honest and direct. It may be tempting to say that your pet went to sleep or ran away. However, you need to make it clear that the animal died and won’t be coming back. Using euphemisms is likely to confuse the child or make the grieving process worse.
- Answering their questions. Some children may have lots of questions. This means they want to talk about losing their pet and this is an opportunity to provide them with age-appropriate details while offering additional comfort.
- Don’t blame the veterinarian for the death. The last thing you want is for your child to think vets or doctors are bad. This can scare them away from seeking medical attention when necessary.
- Memorializing the pet in some way. Whether you choose to cremate or bury the pet, you should look into pet memorials. You can hold a farewell service, erect a headstone, or invest in one of the many pet memorial urns available on the market today. You can even get pet memorial jewelry or other pet memorial keepsakes. It’s also a good idea to encourage your child to share their feelings by talking, writing, or drawing how much the pet meant to them.
Consider Whether a Pet Would Fit into Your Home and Lifestyle
If you have children and you’d like to support their social and emotional development, it’s an excellent idea to get a pet. However, you need to consider the time and money that pet ownership requires. Think about whether you can take on a long-term commitment and keep a pet safe and happy in your environment. If so, you may be ready to add a new member to the family!