Health Parenting

The psychological benefits of having a family pet

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Did you know that owning a pet is linked to positive child development?

Let’s be honest: having a child is tiring. The chores are never ending. I’m sure your to-do list never seems to end. Why would you expand your family and add another little creature to take care off then? Because pets are fun playmates is why! Most kids love pets and at some point they will ask (or more likely harass) you for one. But before you say “No”, let me tell you about the psychological benefits a pet will have on your kid.

Purr-sonality building

Lots of studies show that pets, particularly the cute and cuddly ones, have a direct impact on your child’s health, happiness, social and emotional development. In her 2008 book The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets, psychologist Elizabeth Anderson wrote: “Nothing less than alchemy is involved when animals and children get together. The resulting magic has healing properties that work well.” Her research shows that kids living with pets were generally better off. Kids were reported to:

  • Have better general health
  • Be more obedient
  • Be less moody
  • Have fewer behaviour problems
  • Have fewer learning problems
Chores, chores and more chores

Pets can be a lot of work. Unless the child is given some specific tasks in taking care of the pet, most of the workload often falls on the parents. By giving your child some chores for their pet, will help them gain a sense of responsibility. Research shows that this will enhance their sense of taking on more responsibilities in life. To avoid unnecessary drama, discuss the exact responsibilities of having a pet before you get one.

Fitness companions

Giving kids a reason to venture out can be exhausting. An added bonus to having a pet, aside from the unconventional love, is that they WILL make your kid get outside more. Whether it is to walk the dog, bring the rabbit out to munch on some fresh greens or to push the guinea pig around in a toy stroller, pets get kids outside to exercise.

Interestingly, in the case of dogs, research shows that owners are not only getting more exercise, they’re getting better quality exercise. Walking faster and possibly covering more mileage than people who simply walk or run on their own. Dog walkers are also more likely to stick to their fitness plans than those who walk with other humans or alone.

So if you’re thinking of getting your little one a pet, remember that owning and caring for an animal has positive effects on their personality and behaviour.