Did you have a pet when you were young? Growing up with pets brings many benefit to children, as psychologist Olivia Williams Jones lets us know…
There is a strong link between people and animals that is deeply rooted in the human brain. Children respond particularly well to pets – they love being around animals, playing with them and taking care of them. Apart from the pleasure of having a companion, a pet can significantly influence the quality of children’s life as well as the quality of bonds between family members. Recent findings show that pets have a positive influence on children’s physical, emotional, and social development. Here’s how owning a pet can help parents when it comes to raising children.
Pets encourage an active life
The problem of couch potatoes – the insufficient physical activity among children is still a pressing issue. Leading an inactive life can have serious consequences on health, resulting in children’s obesity and many other health issues. Here’s where pets step in to the rescue. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, children who own pets engage more frequently in physical activity than children without pets. Having a dog requires daily walks which result in a number of health benefits, reducing obesity among others. A pet can help the entire family lead a more active life.
Physical health benefits
Apart from physical activity, owning a pet has a positive impact on health in general. Research shows that children who came in contact with pets in the first year of their life had fewer health problems including respiratory infections and atopic diseases. These findings support the theory that interactions with animals at an early stage of life strengthen children’s immune systems and make them less prone to catching respiratory and skin infections. Furthermore, studies show that animal contact reduces stress levels in children and increases motivation for learning.
Pets influence social development
Having a pet imposes certain responsibilities and obligations. Children who own a dog need to feed them, get them various dog supplies, take them outside for a walk and do other activities that will prompt the development of their sense of responsibility. They also have higher levels of self-discipline and better time management skills, as they have to fit pet duties into their daily schedules. Furthermore, owning a dog helps in development of communication skills through talking to animals and establishing close contact with them. Additionally, research shows that having pets increases chances of social interactions as well as children’s self-esteem.
Taking care of pets influences children’s emotional development. Pets offer unconditional love, and they are a child’s life companion. Owning a pet reduces the levels of anger and fear with children. It also helps in combating depression and loneliness. Taking care of a pet develops compassion and empathy towards others. Studies suggest that children who are pet owners display higher levels of empathy than those who are not.
When you choose to get a pet, you choose to expand your family. Pets significantly influence the quality of family life. They serve as a means of bonding between family members. This happens through joint family activities that revolve around the pet, such as taking them for a walk, playing with them, etc. Pets are also sources of support during rough patches. Research shows that pets offer great comfort during family crises and that interactions with pets during difficult times provide a sense of security, affection, and comfort. These findings support the theory of making pets an integral part of family therapy.
Apart from being cute and lovable, pets have major impacts on psychological and physiological development of children. Having a pet helps them develop empathy and compassion and improve their social skills. Finally, all family members benefit from having a pet, as they strengthens family ties.
About the author
Olivia Williams Jones is a psychologist from Brisbane, Australia, dedicated to making some changes in the world, starting from her own environment. Together with her husband, she is a proud mum of two silly boxers, Teo and Mia. She is also a passionate writer about pets, parenting and healthy living. Her motto is “Be the change you want to see in the world”.