The Positives Of Pets

So your kids have been adding pets to their Christmas wishlist for years and now you think you may be finally ready to give in... Not only can a dog or a cat improve mood and encourage exercise, but they can also teach children about responsibility, empathy and companionship. Here are some key ways having a pet can benefit your kids.

Kids and pet dog

Your kids' bedrooms might be filled with stuffed animals, they may never tire of drawing their future pet horse, puppy or kitten, and their incessant nagging might be starting to get the better of you -- but if you're still unsure of whether or not you should actually take that next step and buy your kids a pet, consider the following advantages.

The benefits of pets

Pets boost mood

Researchers have revealed that pets can not only reduce a person's likelihood of depression, but also lower their blood pressure. Having a cuddly companion by your child's side -- one who greets them with enthusiasm at the end of a tough day at school and who's more than happy to snuggle up with them and show affection -- can have a very positive effect on their mood. And as your kids get older and struggle through those irritable teenage years, while they might shirk away from the family a little, they'll often still show a soft spot and nurture their bond with their pets. They may also use them to talk out their problems.

Pets encourage exercise and improve health

Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies. Pet dogs also require regular walks, so this will help encourage your kids to get off the couch and get some fresh air and exercise. (You might like to make it a condition of buying a pet dog that your kids take it in turns to walk their new furry friend!) As mentioned above, pets can also help ease stress and make your children feel needed, which is particularly helpful for those suffering from anxiety.

Pets teach responsibility and empathy

Owning a pet involves daily responsibilities like feeding and cleaning, not to mention behavioural (and possibly toilet) training. You might like to draw up a roster so that your kids share these tasks and learn the importance of helping out around the house. If you're struggling to get them to take out the rubbish or wash the dishes, you might find that convincing them to take their dog for a walk might be a whole lot easier. And when the time comes that your pet passes away, this will help teach your children about mourning and dealing with grief. The loss of a pet might be the first time your kids have any real experience with death.

Pets offer companionship

Children who are feeling lonely or isolated at school can benefit greatly from having a pet at home that shows them unconditional love and affection. Those coping with learning difficulties or autism may find communicating with pets a lot less stressful than communicating with people. Children without siblings may particularly appreciate the companionship that a dog or cat can provide.

Your pet options

It's important to choose a pet that suits your home environment and lifestyle. If your family lives in a small inner-city apartment, for example, a bird or fish might be more appropriate. But if you have a large backyard and enough time and energy to put into training, a dog may be the perfect option for you.

  • Dogs (consider the landscaping, size of your backyard and your ability to train a puppy)
  • Cats (ensure you invest time toilet training your kitten from the outset to prevent problems later on, and also invest in a collar with a bell to protect the local birdlife around your home)
  • Chickens (these can be a double bonus by also providing the family with fresh eggs, but of course are only suitable if you have a backyard large enough for a coop)
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Hermit crabs
  • Mice and rats
  • Guinea pigs
  • Rabbits (be mindful that pet rabbits are prohibited in certain states of Australia)
  • Freshwater turtles (once again check the regulations that apply in your state)

More parenting advice

Controlled crying: How to make it work
How to ease sibling rivalry
How to deal with the big no!

Tags: pet care

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