Scientists Say Pets Are Good For Kids. Here's Why
If you’re a parent and you have regular, curious kids, the time will eventually come when they’ll ask you if they can have a pet. There’s something about animals that intrigues them. Perhaps it's the fact that there are these four-legged furry beings who have consciousness but seem to be altogether different from them. Or maybe it’s because they’re so darn cute.
Whatever the reason, the knee jerk reaction is to say “no.” You like the idea of having an animal roaming around the house. But you don’t like the thought of clearing up the mess, taking it for walks, and spending money on vet bills.
The upsides of having a pet, though, are more considerable than you think. They’re not just companions. They’re developmental aids. Research suggests that animals have a massively positive impact on your children. Here’s how:
Less Risk Of Allergies
Today’s kids are at high risk of allergies. Why that is the case isn’t entirely clear. But those who live with pets have a lower risk, suggesting that it has a lot to do with the environment.
One theory is that animals, like dogs, inoculate children from an early age from substances that could harm them later on. Pets roll around the mud, splash through water and generally merge with the environment in a way that people just don’t. Then when they return to the home, they expose kids to all the compounds on their bodies, helping their immune systems adjust. It sounds gross - and a little dangerous. But that could very well be the mechanism that explains why kids surrounded by pets don’t develop allergies to the same extent.
Improved Muscular Control
Children must experience a bit of rough and tumble while growing up. It helps them develop critical motor skills. A lot of kids, though, don’t get the opportunity, especially if they don’t have siblings. Screen time eats into playtime - and that means that less physical activity.
Pets, however, interrupt that pattern. They’re so lively and energetic; kids can't live in isolation. Some of their energy rubs off naturally on them, encouraging them to get outside and play.
It Lowers Loneliness And Anxiety
Researchers believe that biology hardwires humans to require physical interaction. Touching each other is a part of our nature.
Kids, though, can sometimes wind up living in a bit of bubble. In a safeguarding-obsessed world, we’ve forgotten the simple joy of physical interaction.
Having a pet, therefore, is a good surrogate. Kids can cuddle them all day long and get the same natural happy hormone release as with a person. This response lowers feelings of loneliness and anxiety, making for a better life.
Nurturing A Pet Allows Parent Play
If you’ve spent any time nurturing your kids, you’ll have noticed that they love “parent play.” They perform the roles of mom and dad, almost as if they are practicing for the future.
Parent play is a critical stage in child development. It indicates that your kid is developing skills of empathy and looking for ways to express them.
Pets are the perfect prop for parent play. As young children, they are wholly dependent on their caregivers. They don’t have the cognitive capacity to make rational decisions themselves. They’re liable to run out into the road and put themselves in danger.
Applying parenting skills to dogs teaches critical emotional skills. It gives kids a sense that they’re not the only relatively helpless people around. It gives them a chance to look after someone less capable than themselves. It teaches responsibility.
Fewer Visits To The Doctor
Research indicates that people who own pets go to the doctors' office less than their non-pet-owning counterparts. There are multiple reasons for this. Top of the list is increased physical activity. Taking the dog for a walk is good exercise for the human too.
There may be gut flora-related reasons too. Dogs and other pets could be “bacterial banks” that walk around your home, providing you with exposure to beneficial bacteria. These microbes then get into your gut and start modifying the immune system, boosting it.
Evidence for how this affects kids is sketchy, but there are some compelling reasons to think it may be beneficial. Boosting the number of good bacteria can only be a good thing.
Then there are the psychological effects of having a pet and their impact on health. If owning a dog makes you happier, then that in itself may be sufficient to make you healthier. Positive thoughts enable your immune system to operate at full capacity.
Better Impulse Control
Children can often struggle with impulse control. Resisting eating the last cookie is something that they find difficult. The deferral of gratification is hard. There’s data, though, that suggests that owning a pet helps with impulse control. Children must consider not only the effects of their actions on themselves, but also their pets. And that might make them think twice before doing something reckless.
The mere act of having responsibility for an animal can have a profound impact on how a child behaves. Suddenly, regulating the behavior of another being becomes a priority. Monitoring their own becomes essential.
It Helps Kids To Go Outside More
In a world dominated by screens and visual entertainment, getting kids to go outside is a massive challenge. Parents know that their children need outdoor play, but making it a reality is hard. Going to the park is a rare event.
That family dynamic, however, changes when you get a pet. Going outside becomes a part of the family culture, changing the way that you view the world.
This is part of the reason why breeders like LuckyLabs are in demand. Parents know instinctively that having a dog is a lifestyle choice that will increase physical activity across the family. Being stuck indoors just isn’t an option when you have an excitable pet in your midst.
Getting kids outside and active is vital for their health and development. It helps them to avoid obesity and chronic disease in the future. And it can be the trigger than they need to develop life-long habits that promote their wellbeing.
Sharing The Love Of A Pet Creates A Common Family Bond
Families need focal points that unite everyone under the same banner. In some families, it’s religion. In others, it’s food. For yours, though, it could be your pet.
A pet is a great way to help regain that connection between the various factions in your household. While members might have differences of opinion, everyone can agree that they love the dog. Well, most of the time, anyway!
So what’s the conclusion to all this?
The basic idea is this: Owning a pet is usually worth it. Sure, it’s a lot of work and expense, but it can be a tremendous developmental aid for kids. For parents, there are benefits, too. If you have high blood pressure or a stressful life, then owning an animal is just about the best thing that you can do. They teach you about what’s essential in life, and they’re always there for you, no matter what.
If you’re a busy parent right now, the thought of adding the needs of a pet to the list of beings who depend on you seems like a bad idea. But they often bring a host of benefits that radically transform your life. Overall, you may find that you have MORE energy and motivation. It can make a big difference. Presumably, that’s why so many people do it.