When you already have kids, getting a pet can seem like a big added chore to your family’s already busy life. Fortunately, there are a ton of amazing benefits to adding a furry friend to your family! Studies have shown that families who have furry pets lead to kids with better relationship skills, kids who have learned to take responsibility, improved mental health, and have healthier lifestyles.
1. It gives your kid an automatic friend and teaches them relationship skills.
Dogs and cats are especially sensitive to human’s emotions, which means they can form a strong emotional bond with your kids and your family. They can provide comfort when needed and can sense when you need it. I know that my cat comes and lays on my chest whenever I am feeling stressed or when I’m upset.
Kids who struggle with social skills can especially benefit from having a pet at home. It can be easier for kids in interact and socialize with pets. Pets, especially dogs and cats, listen to human cues, even kids. This allows kids to build confidence with their social skills.
2. It Teaches Responsibility
When kids get a new furry friend at home, they should be partially responsible for taking care of them. Kids are perfectly capable of filling up their food bowl, their water bowl, brushing them and other developmentally appropriate pet-related chores.
Having your kids take responsibility for keeping your pet alive also opens up educational discussions. Talking about the body and what food and water does for it. You can relate it to pets and also to human bodies!
3. Having Pets Leads to Improved Mental Health
Many Psychologists have done research in relation to pets and mental health. When I was in college, our psychology programs would bring in puppies and kittens onto campus during finals week. We would take samples of students spit before and after they went in to see the animals (spit shows cortisol levels, the stress hormone). Our results showed that students stress levels were significantly reduced just from playing with furry animals for 30 minutes.
Numerous other psychologists have done other studies as well. They found that having a furry pet (not turtles or other animals) showed:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- More regular breathing
- Relaxed muscle tension
- And lowered stress hormone
A lot of these studies were related to kids who have anxiety or who were going through the process of their parents getting a divorce. They also found that that playing with a dog or cat raises serotonin levels along with dopamine, which leads to a calm and relaxed nervous system.
Animal assisted therapy has been shown to be extremely powerful. Laughing and smiling with a pet releases happy hormones naturally.
The sensory feelings of playing with a furry friend can also help with hyperactive and aggressive children. Pets make us as humans feel needed and wanted, which leads to increased self-esteem, feeling less lonely and gives the feeling of being important through the act of caretaking.
4. It encourages a healthy and active lifestyle.
Having a pet, especially dogs, encourages us as humans to get up and be more active. It also encourages us to go into the great outdoors more frequently. Physical activity is extremely important for children’s development, physical and mental health (as well as adults. Getting a dog forces you to take them on walks and entertain them.
When kids play outside a lot in early childhood they learn about the world around them and gain an appreciation for nature. They also learn a different set of social and emotion skills that they wouldn’t learn indoors typically.
Increased time outdoors has been shown to have immense benefits for children’s (and adults) brain health and development. Researchers say it is actually necessary if your want your child’s brain to grow to its full potential.
When children play outdoors, their frontal cortex is activated. The frontal cortex is responsible for controlling emotions, problem solving and other important skills all humans need to be productive members of society.
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