Parents often have concerns when it comes to raising babies in a pet-friendly household. They worry about the safety of the children, bacteria, and the overall negative effects they fear growing up with an animal might have on the child. However, the experiences of parents who decide to raise kids alongside pets, as well as numerous studies, have shown the positive impact of having a pet can have on the well-being of a child, not only in the present time but even in the long-term, thus shattering fears based on lack of information and experience. The benefits of the child-pet alliance are numerous and here are only a few of them.
Love and Devotion
First of all, children absolutely adore pets, whether they are dogs, cats, rabbits – having an animal companion is a source of great joy for a child, and interaction with animals has been proven to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are the chemical building blocks of positive feelings, especially if the bond is created early in life. Pets love children, unconditionally, and that kind of love between the two can result in higher levels of empathy in children, not only towards animals, but other children and adults later in life. This type of companionship has proven to be particularly beneficial for children without siblings, as it provides a furry companion that will teach the child the basics of caring and sharing, and there is even an extensive thesis on pet ownership that even goes as far as to state that children who grow up with not one, but two or multiple pets express even higher levels of empathy, simply because there are more creatures around to love and care for.
The Child as a Caregiver
A sense of responsibility and high self-esteem are traits that should be instilled in a child from an early age, and owning a pet can greatly contribute to the development of these characteristics. As a parent, you can make it your child’s ‘task’ to make sure there is always fresh water for their furry friend, and you can take it a step further by having the child pick up the dog supplies. Not only will your child feel important for having such ‘power and privilege’, to be the one who chooses, but this seemingly simple chore teaches the child the essence of responsibility while also increasing their levels of self-esteem and importance in the family.
Health and Fitness
Life with a pet equals a healthy and active life, as your companion is always on the run for one thing or another, inevitably engaging your child to be active as well. This aspect of pet-ownership seems to be more important than ever, given that children of the digital age are far less active than the generations who grew up without electronic devices and video games. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, children who own a dog exercise eleven minutes a day more than their non-dog owning peers, and that is just an average number. Apart from the health benefits, engaging in outdoor activity boosts the child’s mental health and significantly decreases the sense of loneliness. Aside from this, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children who are around dogs and cats during the first year of life are reported to be healthier and have fewer respiratory infections.
With everything stated in mind, it is clear that only good things develop within a child who grows up surrounded by pets, and what is more, the positive effects of this union are not only temporary, but are here for the long haul. The sense of responsibility, empathy and inclination towards a healthy lifestyle are traits that, when inculcated early on, are a gift that just keeps on giving.
All images from https://pixabay.com/
Olivia Williams Jones is psychologist from Brisbane, 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”.
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