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9 Ways Pets Help Raise Healthy Kids

9 Ways Pets Help Raise Healthy Kids

When it comes to raising kids that are happy and well-adjusted, parents in today's world often don't know where to turn. However, while they are focused on their children's education, health, and other aspects, many research studies are showing that pets can also play a vital role in raising great kids. From helping a child become a better student to laying the groundwork for them having a successful business career, pets can do things no parent ever thought possible.

Gaining Confidence

It's only natural that parents want their children to be confident as they journey out into the world, and the good news is that pets can make this happen. According to research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pets that provide unconditional love and support day in and day out create kids who have high levels of confidence and self-esteem. And research at Michigan State University Extension highlights the benefits of children growing up with pets, including some surprising health benefits.

young kid wearing a hat squatting in the grass holding onto a dog and a cat

Teaching Responsibility

When children have a pet, they quickly learn that to give them the proper care, they must feed, groom, play with, and clean up after their pets at about the same time each and every day. By doing so, kids not only learn how their actions impact the lives of their pets, but also just how important it is to have a regular schedule in their own lives. By doing so, they can then apply their newly-discovered organizational skills to school and other areas of their lives.

Improved Literacy

If your child has an aversion to reading, getting them a pet can help them overcome it and become more comfortable reading. In various studies, researchers noted that children who have pets at home that sit patiently and listen to them read become better readers in school. Mary Renck Jalongo, PhD, education professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and author of The World of Children and Their Companion Animals, explains that when children read to their pet, they have less stress because they know the pet will not criticize them if they make a mistake now and then. 

boy in red shirt running on the grass with a black dog

More Physical Activity

Family pets are the perfect companion for those fun childhood adventures, dress up days, and just plain running around outdoors. Researchers at the American Journal of Public Health showed that adults with dogs do indeed show an increase in activity. Although the research is still inconclusive for how much increased activity is recorded for children with pets, they did show an increase in activity for kids in pet owning households.

Emotional Support

There has been a lot written about the importance of pets on the emotional wellbeing of children, particularly when issues of self-esteem begin to arise. As children grow, they experience cognitive changes about themselves and the other people in their world, which can cause confusion, frustration, sadness, and anger. A recent Treehugger article cited research by Nienke Endenburg and Ben Baarda, who discuss the role of pets in the emotional wellbeing of humans, including children.  They found that pets have advantages with social support over humans because they unconditionally accept humans and do not judge or criticize. Pets are also good listeners, which makes them the perfect companion for kids struggling with emotional and self-esteem issues.

boy in white shirt laying on couch holding a gray tabby cat

Create Closer Bonds

In a research paper published by the US National Library of Medicine, researchers found that children who grow up with animals develop a deeper understanding of the world, themselves and others, enabling them to create a foundation for creating and maintaining close relationships and building affectionate bonds with others. Pets give AND receive affection, which goes a long way towards fulfilling the attachment needs of children. Even in children who have experienced a lack of nurturing in their youth, if they develop bonds with companion animals, they are more likely to develop the ability to create bonds with others. 

Teaching Nurturing

The skill of nurturing ourselves and each other gets vastly overlooked in our society focused on achievement and monetary wealth. Laying the groundwork for raising nurturing children starts with seeing nurturing modeled at home by their family members and by being able to nurture those around them.  A pet, which relies heavily on its humans to survive and thrive, offers the perfect vehicle for teaching nurturing to children.  Research conducted by Gail F. Melson, PhD, professor emeritus of developmental studies at Purdue University, in Indiana, and the author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children, shows that girls and boys are equally involved in caring for their pet, dissolving the line between gender and nurturing. 

two young girls laying on a bed playing with a black cat

Better Communication

In their article titled How Kids Can Learn from Pets, book publisher Scholastic discusses the role pets play in helping kids learn about communication. Studies indicate that children talk to their pets in a variety of ways, including confiding their feelings, showing affection, directing the pet's behavior, and even including them in their pretend play. These scenarios can encourage language and communication skills in a safe setting without the judgement and criticism of adults or other children in their world. And for children with autism and learning disabilities, including specially trained dogs in therapy showed a significant improvement in communication programs.

Improved Wellbeing

A recent article in Psychology Today outlines the physical benefits of owning pets. They cite research showing that dog owners can lower the risk of developing eczema and associated allergies. Petting a dog releases an immune antibody known as IgA, which is a key component of immune defense. And, regular contact with therapy dogs may decrease the secretion of stress hormone, cortisol.  There is even research that indicates the microbes from our pets also have a positive impact on our physical wellbeing and immunity. How exciting that our dogs protect us in so many ways! 

two girls hugging a white dog

More Resources

The Scollar Pack are a group of curious lifelong learners, and we like to share extra resources with our readers.  See our list below.