Pets are great for kids. Period. Anyone who’s had animals around their growing children or who grew up with pets would tell you that. Despite this, most people with children and pets have experienced the death stare. I’m referring to ‘the look’ you get from friends and family when they see your dog lick your kid’s face or worse yet - when it licks their kid’s hands. You’ve probably also encountered comments like - “You let the dog in the house around the kids?” “The cat sleeps in the bed?” “Aren’t you afraid the dog might harm the child?”
In this blog, we’ll together bust myths and understand why it’s awesome to have pets around kids. Let’s dive right in:
Health Benefits: Believe it or not, growing up with a pet bestows children with exemplary health benefits! A study by Dr. Gern at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that infants who grew up with pets were less likely to develop asthma or allergies. They are able to fend off infections like cold and flu better, thus having less days off school.
Responsibility and Consistency: Including children in pet-related chores is a terrific way to impart the lesson of responsibility. By assigning age-appropriate tasks like playing with the dog or feeding the cat, you teach kids how important it is to follow through with their duties. After all, certain four-legged furries are counting on them! It also helps them develop a conscience - it’s hard for the kiddo to sleep at night if they haven’t made sure their pet’s tummy is full. No matter what else is going on in their lives, the fish\bird\cat always needs to be looked after.
Companionship and Improved Mental Health: Children always find reliable support and security in their animal companions - which is great news for mental health! Kids with pets are less anxious, withdrawn, stressed, hypertensed or depressed. In fact, having pets lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart diseases at any given age.
Empathy and Compassion: Having pets puts kids in the position of caregivers which is quite a contrast to the fact that they have only been care-receivers up till then. When kids learn to approach pets with kindness, love and compassion, it easily translates into treating other human beings the same way.
Accepting the Cycles of Life: Sad things happen - that’s just how life is. Sadness, disappointment, grief and loss are all natural emotions that parents often try to shield their kids from. That’s why everyone's a winner and always deserves a ribbon on Sports Day. Children who do not experience the full range of emotions lack resilience and the ability to cope with challenges as they grow older. It’s sad, but sometimes pets get sick and even die. This is the natural cycle of life and the emotions that come with it are important to help children realize that sadness is only a temporary state. Life goes on and we all come out the other side of dark times.
Kids Become Confident Speakers and Readers: Another pleasant shocker - kids who struggle with reading can improve themselves by reading to their pets. Kids become more relaxed around pets and feel less judged. A study at Tufts University found that second graders who read to dogs in an after-school program demonstrated better attitudes toward reading and speaking.
Pets Bring Families Together: In this go-go-go world, it’s unbelievably hard to find time to spend with family. Having a pet however can actually bring parents and children closer. All the activities that revolve around your Cooper or Fluffy – from exercise to grooming to feeding – require immense teamwork and cooperation. Animals then become the focus of family activities. They help enjoy each other’s company whilst communicating with one another.
Away from Technology : Bonus points for putting the iPads down. While so much of our kids' lives are filled with screens, interacting with pets takes them away from that. It teaches kids to be more present.
The endless benefits of owning a pet aside, parental instinct always trumps all! If you are a parent who already owns a pet, be sure to supervise their interactions and make sure they don’t show any signs of aggression - even if you ‘know’ your pet well. Likewise, teach your children to respect pets - never allow them to tease or take away food or toys from them. If you’re someone who’s still contemplating bringing home a pet to your children, make sure that the pet you choose is a good fit for your location, your lifestyle and the members of your household. It is important to convey the joy of loving and caring for a new pet to your child even before you decide to get the pet home. Demonstrate the tasks and exhibit the behaviour you want your child to mirror.
Stay tuned to Early Steps Academy for the next blog - Hint: It's one of the most requested of all times! Till then -Happy Parenting!