If you are unsure whether to get that pet that your child has been asking, or begging for, for as long as you can remember, the below information may help you make your decision.
Not only can a family pet help improve the physical health of your children, and in fact, your whole family, but it can also have a significant impact on their mental health.
Did you know that mental health disorders are the most common childhood diseases, with 17.1 million children in the U.S having, or have previously had, a psychiatric disorder? That is more than the number of children who have suffered with cancer and diabetes combined.
Clearly this is a problem that is not going to go away anytime soon, so it can be helpful to know what you can do as a parent to help improve your child’s mental health.
Starting with the simple action of owning a family pet.
A pet can reduce stress & anxiety in your child
If your child is feeling anxious at school or is suffering stress as a result of a specific life event such as divorce or the loss of a loved one, spending time with their pet can dramatically reduce any feelings of stress and anxiety as well as having the ability to actively boost their mood.
From taking them out for a walk or a play in the park, to simply sitting in their bed stroking or petting the animal, spending time with a pet can help them to feel more calm and at ease.
Pets can be particularly beneficial to children who experience bouts of anger or violence, instantly making them feel more peaceful and composed.
A pet provides your child with structure and responsibility
If your child has not yet had the opportunity to look after something or someone themselves, then a pet is a great place to start. All pets require daily care, from feeding, to walking, to cleaning, to taking them to the vets. Giving your child a sense of responsibility by entrusting them to look after the family pet is a great way to help support their mental wellbeing.
Ensure that you choose age-appropriate tasks for your child when it comes to the family pet. For example, a younger child may only be able to help feed their pet or help wash up their bowls, whereas an older child could be trusted to take their dog to Heart + Paw for a grooming session.
The most important aspect to remember is that you are giving your child not only a routine and a sense of stability, but also a chance to show you and themselves what they can achieve on their own.
A pet can help your child develop healthy relationships
Having a pet will teach your child the importance of compassion as well as how to build emotional bonds with another person or living creature. Your child will then be able to translate these skills into their day to day lives and social interactions, resulting in a considerate child who knows how to show empathy towards others.
If your child is quite shy or becomes nervous in social situations, a pet can help them to overcome this fear by acting as a starting point for introductions and conversations.