Pets can be more than just friends for kids. Here are some benefits that a pet can have in your child’s social-emotional development:
By learning to take care of an animal in a responsible way, your child will increase his / her self-esteem. Self-esteem is an important aspect of socio-emotional development. The presence of a pet in the home often involves sharing the necessary care tasks between parents and children.
For children, engagement, positive encouragement and acceptance are important in building self-esteem. Together with their parents they look after an animal and finalize tasks adapted to their age, and thus they feel more competent. It is important to adapt the child’s tasks to his or her age, for example, a child of three can help by giving water to the dog, but not walking it.
Pets can also increase the child’s self-esteem through their unconditional love they offer to the child.
Decide with your child if you take a dog that should be taken out regularly, a cat that is better able to stay alone during the day but can cause allergies, a rabbit which lives on average for 10 years, or a fish tank which can be a good anti-stressful factor.
Discuss in family the advantages and disadvantages of each possible option. Involvement in choosing the animal, then nurturing, educating, walking and sanitizing it can help the child become more responsible.
It means that the child will increase his ability to understand what others feel. If he or she takes care of an animal that is totally dependent on the master, the child will improve his/ her emotional intelligence, because the relationship the child establishes with his/ her pet is essentially based on nonverbal communication.
The child learns to become more empathetic by recognizing the needs and emotions his animal feels through the positions and mimics that he adopts in different situations.
Also, the child will face and understand the cycle of life: birth, growth, reproduction and death. Thus, he/ she can learn to better deal with significant losses.
Pets usually like to play and bounce, which can make children laugh and become calmer and happier. It has been noticed that when a divorce occurs in the family, the presence of a pet can help the child to better deal with the pain of his parents’ separation.
The animal gives him the feeling of security and can distract him from his negative emotional state.
Sometimes, the presence of familiar animals in places felt as hostile by the child, such as a hospital, can lower the state of anxiety. Physically, when we pet an animal, our body produces endorphins which reduce stress.
A pet can play the role of an intermediary between the child and the adult world. Children have a spontaneous tendency to humanize the animal, attributing feelings and needs similar to them. Observing the relationship the child establishes with his/ her pet you can learn more about your child.
The game is a common way of communication between the child and the animal, a projection object through which it is easier for the child to talk about himself and express his fears. Thus, the presence of an animal often allows detection of the child’s emotional deficiencies.
If at home there are close, positive relationships, then pets can increase the child’s self-esteem.
In contrast, for children who are emotionally neglected, the pet plays especially the role of a confidant and protector against loneliness.
In a way, it can be said that in this case the pet becomes a “mother’s substitute”, the child gets attached to it, the purpose of the attachment being to obtain and maintain safety.
Some types of pets are safer than others. It is important to supervise your child when he/ she is in the pet’s presence, especially if he/ she is less than 4 years old.
Children in the exploratory period (2-3 years) and with a lower level of impulse control can hit, pull the dog’s ears, tail’s cat, etc., which can cause not very dear reactions from the animal.
On the other hand, the animal may be jealous of the affection that parents bear for the child and be more aggressive with him/ her. For this reason it is essential to supervise the two to see both the animal’s reaction and the degree of maturity of the child.
Is your child ready to have an animal? Do you have time to watch it? What kind of animal is best for you? Does your child suffer from any allergies? Are you ready to engage in something that can take several years? If you have answered these questions and you decide which animal is best, it means that you are ready for the new family member.
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