Parents are thinking about purchasing those ubiquitous Christmas gifts and often high on the list is a pet for their children. Of course, children love the idea of owning a pet. Who would not want small, fluffy (or scaly) creatures to show them unconditional love at all times? But pets can be much more than that. In fact, studies have shown that pets can be catalysts for your children’s increased well-being.
Whether a dog, cat, lizard or bird, pets can provide their owners with countless benefits - especially children. Here are a few great things that these wonderful creatures bring into our lives.
1. They Teach Companionship. I think philosopher Martin Buber put it best when he said, "an animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." Though they do not speak the same language or have the same mannerisms that we do, our furry friends somehow understand us enough to show us love when we want it and comfort when we need it.
In addition, they teach responsibility. They show children that to love something also means to take care of it - to feed and nurture it. From a large dog to a small fish, taking care of pets requires a lot of work. Exposing children to caretaking at a young age develops many critical skills for the future.
2. Bye-Bye Allergies! Studies have shown that children who grow up with cats and dogs are less like to be sick compared to other children their age, and they are also less likely to develop pet-related allergies. Being exposed to pet dander at an early age reduces their chances of developing these allergies by 33%, according to a study by pediatrician James E. Gern, as it strengthens their immune systems. Before you rush to get a pet though, talk with your pediatrician because it is still possible for your children to acquire allergies.
3. They Promote Activity. Animals, like dogs, need to be taken out for walks everyday - sometimes more than once a day. Doing a couple of laps around the neighborhood is nice, but you and your children can use this task as an opportunity to explore so much more and become increasingly active. Walk to the dog park and meet new people; go hiking with your pet; or have a run on the beach. Keeping active is essential for both children and adults.
4. They Make Life a Little Brighter. There is just something about the company of a pet that makes most children and adults happy. It is said that when we interact with animals, our dopamine and serotonin levels increase. In other words, the happy hormones in our brains are released!
5. They are Learning Companions! Parents oftentimes find their children doing homework with or reading to their pets. This is because there is no judgement with pets. The comfort that they provide creates a safe space for children when doing academic tasks (or any task they may not be confident in).
Above all these benefits, the best thing a pet has been known to provide is the strengthened bond between family members. They bring out the spirits of love and cooperation in people. So, if your children ever ask for a pet this Christmas, please keep these points in mind when making your decision. Hopefully, it ends in adding a new member to the family under the Christmas tree!