Will Getting a Pet Change Your Child’s Life For The Better?

By Jess Wilson

Pets. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are on the brink of making a decision regarding adopting a pet into your family life, here are some thoughts for you to consider as to why growing up with pets can be hugely beneficial for children. Many families acquire pets in the first place for the children’s sake. When asked ‘Why do you have a pet?’, a high percentage believe it is good for the kids – and the research coming out now is suggesting that to some degree, it is.

There has been a growing amount of research in recent years surrounding the influence animals can have on a child’s life. There is evidence to show that children with emotional, social, learning or behaviour disorders can benefit enormously from the presence of and interaction with a companion animal.

It is thought that pets can reduce stress, teach compassion and may even lend a helping hand with emotional support. It is even believed that owning a dog may help reduce the chances of child obesity. Evidence exists that children who are withdrawn become more confident in the presence of animals. Those who are hyperactive often become quiet, absorbed and more focused. In some cases, these changes in behaviour have been found to be transferred to the classroom.

There is a genuine belief that interaction with an animal is beneficial for the development of children. Children with low self-esteem may talk to, or confide in, an animal in ways they would not with people. They are often more confident in performing tasks they find difficult with an animal simply because the animal does not care if mistakes are made, they are non-judgmental.

Parents, teachers and therapists can harness children’s interest in animals to encourage them to talk about problems, to overcome shyness and to facilitate friendships with other children. Owning a pet may even boost your child’s self-esteem in tasks such as reading. In the USA, therapy dogs are now often utilised in a programme whereby children read to the dog (read more here). The dogs appear to listen intently, do not interrupt and do not correct the child. The verbal skills in even some of the most reluctant children involved in the programme has greatly improved.

Children can learn empathy and compassion from growing up with a pet. They learn how to read the pet’s needs. Is he hungry? Does he need to go outside? Pets can teach kids value – even the youngest toddler can pick up a few pointers with simple pet care chores like pouring food into a dish. Children will learn that pets need food, shelter, exercise and love.

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