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Pets and your child's development

Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. George Eliot.

Why pets are good for a child's development

If your child already has a pet, or indeed if you're considering getting a pet, you might be interested to learn that in addition to providing great companionship, owning a pet can also benefit your child's development.

Dr James Griffin, a scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Development says "The general belief is that there are health benefits to owning pets, both in terms psychological growth and development, as well as physical health benefits. When children are asked who they talk to when they get upset, a lot of times their first answer is their pet. This points to the importance of pets as a source of comfort and developing empathy."

  • Having a pet encourages a child's sense of responsibility, particularly if you get them to assist in the day to day care. Feeding, cleaning, grooming and indeed playing and petting all help children to learn important life skills. However, remember it's unlikely that your child will be able to be 100% responsible for their pet. It's a great idea to get them involved and make sure that they help out, but you will still need to monitor the situation closely. After all, a child who struggles to remember their lunchbox is likely to struggle to remember their responsibilities to their pets too!
  • It's been postulated that pets can assist in reducing stress. Stroking a pet is very calming and relaxing and has been known to reduce anger in some children. Of course, your child will also benefit from their pet's love and attention and playing with a pet is lots of fun.
  • Pets teach children about bereavement. Of course when a pet dies it's very upsetting, but it is important for children to learn about death, and how to deal with it, both now and in the future.

So what makes a good pet?

Ultimately this really depends on your own situation. Some children may have allergies which make furry friends a no, no. But there are other options: fish, birds, reptiles etc. Obviously, before you decide upon a particular pet, make sure you do your research. As they say, a dog's for life!

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