Every child at one time or another during their growing up years wants to have a pet. While pets don’t fit into every family’s lifestyle, and they do take a big commitment on the part of the entire family, the benefits to children of having their own pet, or having access to a household pet, goes well beyond the teaching of responsibility that is often cited as a reason for getting children pets.
Here are just some of the benefits that children can get from growing up with a pet:
Increased Self Esteem
When most people think of children and pets, they really never stop to consider just how much having a pet can increase a child’s self esteem. However, the truth is, pets can and do help a child build self esteem in a number of ways.
First, when a child is charged with the care of an animal and provides that care well (under a parent’s watchful eye), he begins to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement, that can make him feel good about himself and give him the courage to try other new things.
Second, studies have shown that when children have unconditional love, they tend to have higher self-esteem and self-confidence, and what can give a child more unconditional love that a pet who loves them, never complaining, never criticizing, but simply being there through the good times and bad.
Strangely enough, while those furry cuddly pets are great for building a child’s self esteem, so are fish, and even reptiles and birds, as many of these animals respond to attention and loving gestures.
Pets provide children with improved learning skills. Studies show that children who have a difficult time reading, who read to their pets, improve their reading skills dramatically. The reason is that children are more comfortable reading to their pets, since they feel they have a skill they share without fear of correction or disapproval.
In addition, children who are really interested in their pet, tend to develop interests in other animals as well, and this often translates into them doing research on habitats, behaviours, and other facts about animals, which again helps to increase reading skills and improves researching skill as well.
Improves Social Skills
Studies have also discovered that children who have a pet develop better social skills. Children spend a lot of time talking to their pets, sharing confidences, and even sharing their pet with others. This helps to improve all types of communications and social skills that easily translate to dealing with their peers. Children learn how to communicate their wants with their pets, making it easier for them to communicate wants with others as well.
A number of studies show that children who have pets tend to be healthier than children who don’t. Babies born into homes where there are pets often have improved immune systems and less likely to have asthma. In addition, having a pet such as dog, encourages children to exercise more, as they always have someone ready to run and jump and play with.
Provides Comfort and Companionship
Pets provide comfort and companionship for children. Only children, whose parents work, often spend a great deal of time with babysitters who may or may not actively engage the child. However, pets provide companionship for only children, and often for children who are ill.
They also provide comfort to a child who has been scolded or who may be fearful when left alone for even short periods of time. Often times, when children have arguments with parents or their friends, their pet is there to provide comfort for them.
Encourages Nurturing Behaviour, Respect, And Acceptance
Children who have pets have an opportunity to learn and develop nurturing behaviour and even some parenting skills. Learning to care for and love a helpless living thing is the first step in learning how to be nurturing. This is important for both boys and girls, but is especially important to boys who find they are too “manly” for role playing with dolls.
Children also learn to respect their pets for their unique characteristics and for the joy they bring into their lives. They learn quite rapidly to respect an animal’s need for companionship, privacy, and proper handling.
Raising a pet can help your child understand that different animals behave in different ways, which helps them to accept their pets abilities and limitations. In many cases, children who grow up with pets, are more accepting of people that others view as different.
Can Improve Family Bonding
Pets can help to improve family bonding. Often times, families share responsibility for walking those dogs, cleaning the fish tank and hamster cage, and feeding and caring for a family pet, as well as playing with that pet. This time spent together caring for the family pet, provides a wonderful opportunity for families to slow down and spend some quiet time together.
While we want to protect our children from the harsh realities of life, that simply isn’t possible. Owning a pet provides your child with value life lessons in birth, life, love, death, and dealing with grief. Learning these lessons often gives children a better appreciation of life in general.
Knowing When Your Child Is Ready For A Pet
Many parents wonder how they will know when their child is ready for a pet. Children who are born into a household with a pet, or are extremely young when pets are introduced into the household, grow up learning how to care for and handle pets. Watching how your child treats the family pet, and observing whether or not they are willing care for this pet, will give an indication of whether or not your child is ready for a pet of their own.
In homes where there are no pets, most parents base their decision on how well children carry out simple house hold chores, how they act around the pets of their friends or extended family members, and whether or not they seem to be responsible for their age.
Keep in mind, that even the most responsible child may become bored with a pet, and as a parent, you also need to be prepared to care for this particular animal. Never allow your child to have a pet that you are frightened to care for. Should the responsibility for the pets care fall to you, your fear will transmit to the animal and make for an unhappy home for you, your child, and the pet.
If you are unsure about whether or not your child is ready for a pet, then a goldfish makes a great starter pet, they are easy to care for, fascinating to watch, and you don’t have to worry about being bitten.
Set a time period that you expect your child to have full care of the goldfish (be ready to take over if the child doesn’t follow through), before allowing them to have a pet that needs more time and care. If the child follows through, then the goldfish can become a “family pet”, and the entire family can divide the care of goldfish.
Do you have a family pet? Who looks after the family pet? Would you let your child have a pet of their own?