Pets are an intrinsic part of many children’s lives and the child who learns to properly care for an animal will gain a valuable lesson in kindness and respect for living things. HEALTH takes a closer look.
When a family decides they want to add an additional member to their unit in the form of a pet, there can be a myriad of benefits for the family, tells counseling psychologist Madeeha Afridi. “In my clinical work as a counseling psychologist with children and adolescents, families have reported the benefits of having a pet range from their children learning nurturing skills, gaining a sense of responsibility, greater family harmony, as well as a companion to lift their mood,” she says.
Specific Benefits of Owning a Pet
Most parents are often looking for creative ways to teach their children valuable life skills such as responsibility and ownership of themselves and others. By having a pet at home, Afridi says then children are able to develop a higher sense of responsibility by being in-charge of taking care of their pet; this can include duties assigned to the child to feed, walk, and clean their pet, as well as caring for their pets general well-being. “As children learn to take responsibility for their pet, this skill can then be transferred to other areas of their life such as academics, taking care of their siblings, as well as general contribution in the family’s home,” she explains.
When children have a pet at home, for them, it becomes someone they can turn to and be fully accepted by, day in and out which Afridi says can boost and enhance their selfesteem. Unlike their parents and friends, who children may feel judged by sometimes, pets are fully accepting and show love to their owner in a way that can create and nurture feelings of well-being and unconditional acceptance.
For a child and adolescent, who may go through times in their development where they feel hurt and judged by others, the relationship they have with their pet, who they know they can confide in and fully accepts them, actually enhances their self-esteem and confidence, says
Afridi. “In addition, pets provide a source of emotional support for children because they know they can turn to them and feel understood by them at all times,” she notes.
In the digital age, children are not getting as much time to be active or be outdoors, which in turn is affecting their physical health. “When a child has a pet, in this case, a dog, they are more likely to spend time outdoors, whether it is taking the dog for a walk or playing with them which enables the opportunity to be active,” says Afridi. “This way, their play time with the dog becomes a good workout, which contributes to
them being physically fit, in a way that is fun and playful for them.
Having a pet at home can create a greater sense of harmony for all members in the family, which Afridi says contributes to a warm and caring atmosphere in the home. “A family may choose to take walks together with their pet, or come up with creative ways to interact with their pet, which becomes a basis for the family to spend time together in a way that everyone enjoys,” she says. “Having a pet, someone who gives unconditional love and acceptance to all members in a family, can be a way to unite, and be the glue that bonds the family together.”