As parents, we often bring home small dogs, cats and other pets into our children’s lives to teach them valuable lessons about responsibility and the circle of life. But sometimes we overlook the positive impact these little critters have on our lives, especially for our kids.
There are many fairly obvious health benefits associated with having a pet, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and many others too numerous to mention. But what about our mental well-being and that of our children? Let’s take a look at often overlooked perks of having a pet when it comes to the psychological and educational benefits they provide to our kids:
Improved Reading Levels
According to at least one study, a handful of second-graders were divided into two groups over a short, five-week period during their summer break for from school. This voluntary experiment involved eighteen second-graders in a way of examining their reading comprehension with an interesting twist. One batch of kids were told to read aloud to humans, while the other group did the same with canines present instead.
What did this type of limited research uncover? You may be surprised at the results:
- Children who read to dogs had an slight increase in their reading rates
- On the other hand, the kids who read to humans had a minor decrease in these
- Approximately one-third of children paired with humans dropped out of the program
- Of those that were paired with canines, none of them dropped out of this experiment
Self-Esteem And Social Skills
Moving on, in a brief Pet Health Council report, they highlighted ways in which children who regularly interact with animals help kids with more than a healthier lifestyle with things like exercise and responsibility. The PHC results pointed to improvements with social skills, self-esteem issues and especially with kids who had communication problems.
Harnessing a child’s natural interest and connection with animals, kids will often open up to these critters without any fear of rejection or judgement. It entices them to become less withdrawn, facilitate friendships with their peers, communicate more openly about their problems with parents and become less fearful overall.
Autism And Attitude Adjustments
Nowadays, autism rates are on the rise and many medical professionals are pointing to better diagnosis techniques when recognizing this mental disorder commonly found challenging young children with general education. In severe cases, kids who have trouble communicating or connecting with people will often have a successful link with an animal instead. This can help to further facilitate future connections with humans as this bond continues to develop over time.
When it comes to attitude problems with some of today’s “normal” kids (using this term loosely), the onset of adolescence often brings upon outright disobedience and overall defiance. As a part of growing up and going through those hormonal changes, these issues could potentially lead to violence, vandalism and other dilemmas. These types of issues are all on the decline when children are given the opportunity to regularly interact with pets or other animals.
According to Dr. Lisa Wood, an Associate Professor from Australia, she was recently published in a Harvard Health Publication when she concluded, “For pet owners, this also translates into new sources of social support, both of a practical and emotionally supportive nature.”
She continued with her insights when she states that children are, “Often more confident in performing tasks they find difficult with an animal simply because the animal does not care if mistakes are made, nor will the child be afraid of looking silly in front of the animal.”
Who wouldn’t want all of these situations and benefits for our children? Unconditional love, affection, companionship, the chance to grow and understand more than we can see in front of our eyes at any given time. Connecting with our kids using animals as a mediator, be them canine or kitty counterparts, even given reptiles, rabbits, rodents, fish or other pets, can be a catalyst for their emotional, educational, spiritual and intellectual growth.