For some parents, a house is not a home if it does not include a pet. However, others are hesitant to get pets because they do not want to add to the chaos. Ultimately, your family situation determines whether a pet is right for you. Nevertheless, research demonstrates several ways that kids can benefit from having pets, especially dogs and cats, in the home.
1. Outlet for Excess Energy
Kids and pet alike can have as much energy as a fully charged solar battery. When raised together, the two can provide an outlet for their pent-up energy and help to tire each other out. Research showed a particular benefit for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, with the effect of having a dog in the home proving to be therapeutic.
2. More Exercise
Childhood obesity is on the rise, and parents, teachers, and doctors are searching for ways to try to combat it to avoid the serious health effects that can result. Part of the problem is that children may be reluctant to participate in physical activity. Children with dogs in the home get 11 more minutes of exercise per day on average compared to those who do not. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 66 more hours of exercise.
3. More Responsibility
When a family has a pet, all members should share in its care and feeding. This is a way to teach your children about responsibility. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. The care of a pet should not be the sole responsibility of a child. This is too much of a burden for young people who are just learning what responsibility means. They are likely to fall short, and the pets can suffer as a result. However, parents can introduce responsibility for a pet gradually and explain to kids how the consequences of their actions or inactions affect others as well as themselves.
4. Better Self-Esteem
Young children like to help out and feel like they are contributing to the functioning of the household. When you give a child a pet care task that is within his or her ability, such as filling a water dish, he or she feels a sense of accomplishment. Such successes contribute to a child's overall sense of self-esteem, which is vitally important as he or she approaches school age.
5. Improved Emotional Intelligence
For some children, empathy comes naturally, while others need to be taught. Children tend to identify with animals more easily than with adults or even other children. Having a pet in the home helps children to become more compassionate to the needs of others. Knowing that their pets depend on them to put aside their own desires occasionally and take care of their pet care responsibilities helps them learn to be selfless, and the love and gratitude that the pets show instinctively serves as positive reinforcement to encourage more of the behavior.
6. Better Health
When children are born, their immune systems are not yet fully developed. This makes them vulnerable to common ailments such as colds and ear infections. Research suggests that exposure to pets in early life may help an infant's immune system to mature more quickly. As a result, children who do contract bacterial infections in infancy may recover completely with a shorter course of antibiotics.
Conventional wisdom holds that if a family member has an allergy to a pet, the home should not have any animals. Yet children with dog allergies who lived in homes with canines proved less likely to develop eczema than those without, and babies with at least one parent affected by asthma or respiratory allergies were less likely to be so afflicted if exposed to a pet in the home within the first year of life.
Though pets can have a positive influence on children's lives, none of this should be construed to mean that your family must have a pet even if you do not want one. If you do decide to add a furry member of the family, you must also be prepared to impose and enforce safety measures for the protection of children and animals alike.
About the Author:
Mia Morales is a loving wife and mother of twins from Colorado. She is a self-described “DIY addict”, and loves to decorate her house and office with her creations. As a mother, Mia is really passionate about health, nutrition, and what she puts in her body. When she’s not writing, you can find her with a glass of mint lemon water and a child on each hip. Who says moms aren’t superheroes?