7 Surprising Benefits Of Pet Ownership For KidsMay 18, 2021
In this episode of The 3D Parent Podcast, I’m sharing the surprising benefits of pet ownership for children. Taking care of animals can help children develop responsibility, empathy, and motivation. It can be wonderful for both their physical and emotional health.
Points we discuss include:
- How pet ownership helps children develop into maturity
- The ways animals can help regulate emotions
- Points to consider before bringing animals into your family
While pet ownership is a big responsibility, it can bring so much joy into the lives of children. Should you decide to dive into pet ownership, you might discover and experience all the hidden benefits a pet can provide for your child and find a new way to connect as a family through your pet(s).
Things You Will Learn
[00:05] In this episode of The 3D Parent Podcast, I’m sharing the benefits of pet ownership for children. Even though I grew up in the heart of Los Angeles, my family owned a variety of pets, including dogs, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, chickens, and newts. Our family loved animals, and it was a big part of our culture. My own children are also passionate about animals. With a larger family of four children, my husband and I have been somewhat reluctant to take on the responsibility of owning pets. But my children have been begging and begging for more and more animals.
[05:05] The general pattern is that my children will take the time to do in-depth research projects on animals and then put together some pretty convincing PowerPoint presentations on why we should own certain animals. We haven’t caved in to every request, but we do now own a dog, some guppies, and, most recently, hamsters. My kids unlocked some very interesting points in their presentations to us about the benefits of owning pets. And that’s what I want to share with you today.
[10:39] The first benefit is that pets encourage genuine play (Listen to episode 19 for an in-depth discussion on true play). It’s critical for children’s development that they have open-ended, imaginative play away from screens. Playing with pets is also good for children’s physical health.
[12:10] A second surprising benefit of pet ownership for kids is that pets provide a calming effect for highly sensitive and anxious children. Many scientific studies have concluded that pets have a calming effect on children (Listen to episodes 23 and 50 to find more resources for parenting these types of children). Children with pets have less stress and anxiety. Highly sensitive children benefit from the non-judgmental connection and unconditional love that animals provide. When difficult emotions arise, it’s sometimes easier for children to connect with an animal rather than another person.
[16:12] The third benefit is that pets can provide an outlet for dominant, “alpha” children (Learn more about this type of child in episode 42). A child who is wired this way wants to instruct others on what to do and how to care for them. They want to be leaders, and interacting with and training a pet can be a wonderful outlet for their energy. It helps them direct their care-taking instinct in a positive direction.
[17:58] The fourth benefit is that pets can increase children’s sense of self-esteem, confidence, and independence. It’s a big deal to be responsible for caring for another living creature. Kids feel proud and accomplished when they have been empowered and given the responsibility to care for an animal. Additionally, giving and receiving unconditional love adds to positive esteem.
[20:40] The fifth benefit is that pets encourage the development of responsibility and motivation in kids. Children can help pay for things like pet supplies. This helps them learn to save and budget and feel more ownership and responsibility for their money. They also learn to take responsibility for the less fun parts of pet ownership, including things like cleaning and poop duty. Kids who follow through with these responsibilities will be more responsible in other areas of their life.
[25:06] The sixth benefit is that pets help with the development of executive function skills. Children need to be able to organize and plan the care of their pets. They need to remember the daily steps (such as food, water, exercise) and possibly weekly responsibilities (such as cleaning and grooming). Animals force us into a routine to meet their needs, and this is great practice for children to plan and execute.
[26:57] Finally, the seventh benefit is that pets provide opportunities for emotional growth and development, particularly with empathy, emotional expression, and accessing feelings. Children can learn to sense what animals are feeling. Interacting with animals decreases their aggression and increases their sensitivity to others’ needs. Also, since children will likely outlive their pets, pet ownership can help them process challenging experiences of grief and loss.
[35:03] While there are many benefits to owning pets, it wouldn’t be fair of me not to mention the challenges as well. Pet ownership is a big responsibility, and the decision to bring an animal into the life of your child should not be taken lightly. Animals like dogs and cats are wonderful for kids, but parents should realize that a lot of the responsibility will fall on them. Pets come with varying costs and expenses in terms of maintenance, and they have wide-ranging lifespans as well. Parents should also evaluate where their children are emotionally and developmentally to see if they are truly ready for the responsibility of pet ownership.
[38:50] While pet ownership is a big responsibility, it can bring so much joy into the lives of children. Should you decide to dive into pet ownership, you might discover and experience all the hidden benefits a pet can provide for your child and find a new way to connect as a family through your pet(s).
Quotes From Episode 78
“It doesn't feel as difficult to connect with an animal as it might with another human being.”
“It's a big deal to be responsible for taking care of another living creature.”
“Empathy is something that develops and intrinsically from within a child. But we as parents can certainly provide conditions and opportunities for that empathy to grow and develop in our children, and pets just happen to be one of those ways that you can present an opportunity for growth and development in empathy in your child.”
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