Pets offer utmost devotion and companionship that is often unmatched. When interacting with these domestic animals, children attempt to emulate their behavior which can at times prove to be fruitful to their development.
Deciding to include animals in your children’s lives can prove to be beneficial, especially if you’re seeking to inculcate behavioral changes.
Here are five ways why you should adopt a pet as your family member.
Pets contribute to physical development
- Pets encourage children to stay active by running and practicing motor skills. By nature, animals are brutish and untamed. The efforts to train them require the development of an exercise regime and following through it on a regular basis.
- Young children need to be encouraged to move around and spend an ample time outdoors. Pets can be a catalyst then without the child feeling the pressure to do. Befriending a pet can allow your child to conceive outdoor play time as fun.
- Allowing a child to carry out the tasks associated with maintaining a pet’s lifestyle can help in the development of motor skills. Pouring water into the dispenser of a bird’s cage, without any spillage, is a delicate task. So is brushing a dog’s coat after its bath. When children are assigned these jobs, they become recruits under ongoing training to become pros at them.
Pets encourage social interaction
- Firstly, pets can act as social objects themselves. This means that a pet acts as an object around which develops a social network. For example, Instagram is a photo sharing application that allows people to upload photos of their interest. In this case the social objects are the photographs people share and he social networks are developed amongst people who may exhibit liking to pictures of their interest. In a similar manner, pets can help children who are shy or less socially outgoing make friends. When children see a kid playing with a pet, they are interested in interacting with the animal themselves. This provides an impetus for befriending the pet owner whose inhibitions are reduced by other children approaching him in a friendly manner.
- The second manner in which pets help social development amongst children is by helping a child understand the dynamics of a relationship. There might be times the pet may listen to the child and others when he might exhibit its disobedience. One day a child’s cat may finish its meal while the other day show its moods and sprawl it all across the floor. Learning to understand the different moods and behaviors of the animal and acting accordingly is a social skill that can easily be translated to human relationships as well. Further, since animals are beasts, dealing with them requires ample patience. When a child adopts a pet, she continually undergoes the training to perfect this trait and instill it as a characteristic within her.
Pets help develop emotional intelligence
Pets facilitate a 360-degree emotional development amongst children including the aspects of self-esteem, confidence and responsibility
- There are times when a child may be in doubt of himself. Children are often prone to criticism stemming from comparison, and if during these times they find a source to help them denounce this notion, it goes a long way. Animals accept us for who we are. During the early developmental years, this reassurance matters the most. Pets show their loyalty to their assumed owners. To the pet the child is their best friend irrespective of whatever the rest of the world thinks of her. This contributes to building self-esteem.
- Taking in a pet means that you are embarking upon the challenge to take care of the animal for the rest of its life. As the pet grows, the chores required to keep it healthy increase and at times become daunting. Tackling these issues may help a child develop confidence. Such a phenomenon help children understand the links between actions and consequences and confidence then stems from positive reinforcement.
- Pets can provide a good platform for instilling responsibility amongst children. When keeping a pet, parents should facilitate their child to get involved in the tasks associated with raising the animal. This will help them realize that the animal is a dependent being and its well-being is the sole responsibility of its owners. However, as a parent one should be careful in teaching their child only age appropriate tasks. Compelling a 3 year old to bathe a dog on his own may not be such a good idea as the animal may get rough and scare the child into believing he can never take care of his pet. On the contrary, the toddler can help fill the pet’s feeding bowl and feel content and responsible in fulfilling his job successfully.
Pets stimulate cognitive development
- A pet can help in developing a child’s imagination. When a child befriends a pet, he automatically gives it a name and launches into developing a bond. This bond is strengthened when the child tries to imagine how the animal feels and often may speak about its emotion on its behalf. Other times you may see your daughter having a tea party with her cat and the other dolls. All these actions are indicative of a mental story going on inside the child’s head helping her develop imaginative thought.
- Pets arouse curiosity amongst children. Animals live in a manner that is different from humans. A goldfish lives in a bowl, a bird in a cage and a tortoise in a shoe box! The attempts to understand how a goldfish breathes under water, or how a bird flies, or even trying to decipher how the tortoise might feel inside its shell compel a child to seek answers. In times like these, parent can make the most of the opportunity and help their child engage in research tools like encyclopedias or the internet to help them learn about the characteristics of the animal. The interest can be extended by allowing the child to look up for more information about his pet.
- Younger children are often prone to separation anxiety. The feeling of having a companion may help the child ‘not feel alone’ in social settings. With the animal he may seem to have a partner he could count on and help in reducing his insecurities.
Pets provide comfort
- Children are often under stress. May it be excelling at school, or being punished for a wrong-doing, or even trying to save enough to buy the new Barbie. The constant demands of their exciting lives may burden them to the extent of exhaustion. In this case pets can have a therapeutic effect. With a pet, children feel a mutual affection that is pure and unbiased. The gratitude they may receive from the lick of a dog, or purr of a cat, might just be the positive reinforcement they seek. And since talking to a pet is non-threatening, children can share their secrets and stories to get the loads off their chests.f
- Touch therapy is widely known for its effects to relieve stress. When you cuddle with a pet, the sensation can help reduce the amount of anxiety in the body and contribute to relaxation. Further, the company of a pet helps one remember that they’re not alone and can always count on a friend.
Animal-assisted Therapy for Children with Special Needs
Animal assisted therapy can provide a child with the required physical and/or emotional therapy. The success of the therapy stems from the relationship a child develops with the animal, which provides him comfort and an avenue for learning. The confidence a child gains from confiding in a pet and knowing they’ll have a companion to fall back on has the capacity to produce phenomenal results.
Further, the responsibility a pet helps bestow upon a child is capable of instilling confidence within him. As quoted by Adrian Sandler, a Mission Clinic Provider,
“Mastering something new is great for children with developmental and behavioral challenges”.
Animal-assisted therapy has been known to help mostly in the following ways.
- Playing with an animal can help improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination and contribute to motor development which can facilitate recovery from any physical disability encompassed under neuromusculoskeletal dysfunctions.
- Children with speech impediments can be encouraged to practice simple orders to the pet, including ‘fetch’, or ‘jump’. With time the child may feel confident enough to translate these into sentences and practice his speech alongside.
- Pets have also known to produce behavior modification amongst children with autism. The focus during such a therapy is to increase the attention span of the autistic child to help be aware of his surroundings. When an animal asks for attention it automatically translates into assumed responsibility. The prolonged need to be attentive to the animals’ needs helps in improving the attention span of the child.
Combating health hazards of owning a pet
Be careful of any scratches and bites.
Animals when aggressive may choose to claw or bite their owners, and transmit a potentially dangerous bacterial infection.
In order to reduce any danger from such an incident, parents should help keep the animal’s nails trimmed and seek to vaccinate the animal to prevent transmission of diseases in case of an animal bite.
Stay away from pet food and animal poop.
Dry pet food and animal feces may contain bacteria known as salmonella. Infecting the small intestine, salmonella causes nausea and may cause the affected child to seek professional medical help.
Preventing a case salmonella infection requires parents to keep their children away from the dry pet food, including the utensils in which it is served. Also children should be supervised to wash their hands after every time they play with the animal. It should be noted that feeding the animal raw meat increases the risk of salmonella.
Closely watch for fleas and ticks
Pets, especially those with fur coats including dogs and cats, can harvest fleas and ticks if not kept clean. These are parasites that can cause fatal diseases and can easily spread from the animal to a human.
To minimize such incidences the animal should be kept clean by bathing the animal every week using a veterinary recommended shampoo, brushing the animal’s coat regularly and using fur-based products to reduce shedding. The animal should also be regularly inspected for ticks which should then be removed using the appropriate tools.
Be watchful of Zoonotic diseases
These diseases have an animal to human transmission via parasites and can cause diarrhea, muscle aches and fever. Animals may be harvesting such parasites within or outside their bodies. Examples include transmission of hookworm via a dog’s poop or ringworm thriving inside its fur coat.
To combat such a hazard parents are recommend to adopt a lifetime parasite control, which includes routine medical check-ups by a veterinarian, who may prescribe the required oral or topical medication.
Are you ready for a dog? Think again.
Pet ownership, like any other relationship demands commitment, responsibility and consideration. Before you decide to adopt entitlement to a pet, understand the responsibilities associated with it. As a pet owner, you are responsible for,
- selecting a pet that will suit your lifestyle and residential premises. An impulse purchase to buy a pony for your daughter may turn out to be a bad decision if you can’t afford to keep it in a stable. The quantity of the pets should be gauged from your capacity to provide them with ample food, shelter and pet services.
- investing in maintaining the animal’s lifestyle including monetary expenses like health care and emergency requirements, as well as emotional involvement including your time and affection.
- providing the pet with ample exercise and mental stimulation to help it release its energy and maintain the status quo of a domestic animal. If left untrained your pet may pose to become a danger to the society he may be living in.
- keeping it clean and prevent it from becoming a health hazard to the family members.
- drafting contingency plans in case the animal falls ill or goes missing.
- either providing the animal with an avenue for its sexual needs (and provide resources in the case of offspring), or seek to spay/neuter the pet.
Human nature is compassion and love. Animals exist in this world to remind us of that.
Children are the vessels we breed in the present to shape the tomorrow that is the future. If we teach our children to stay true to their intended human nature, our tomorrow can become peaceful.
Animals can prove to be the tool for such a future. Free of selfish traits, pets help a child reconnect with their real self and feel empowered to make a change.
Introduce an animal to your children. Its loyalty, affection and obedience will defeat the evil to only fuel the good inside of them.