Pets And Kids: A Perfect Combo
As a child, I was extremely shy, with children and adults alike. I was always drawn to animals. I always felt safe and comfortable in their presence. I was able to talk freely to them without fear. I remember when I was very young, and my mother would take me to the homes of her adult friends. While she passed the time away chatting, I could always be found on the floor with the friend’s dog or cat. My passion and love of animals has continued throughout my life, and my friendships consist of like-minded people. Lessons in life, love Animals can teach life lessons to children, and offer unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship. Animals are featured in children’s storybooks, movies, music, toys, décor, and clothes. The money that is spent on pets has doubled in the past 10 years ($38 billion), far exceeding the toy industry ($23 billion) and candy industry ($24 billion). An estimated four in 10 children will begin their life with a domestic pet, and 90 percent of children will have lived with a pet at some point in their childhood. Pets can greatly benefit a child in the learning process. This is evident through the Read Program that we do with our therapy dogs. We will visit libraries and schools, and children will select a story to read to our dogs. They excitedly show the dog the pictures on each page as they read their story, typically lying on their stomach beside the dog. Educators have long known that bringing therapy animals into schools helps developmentally challenged kids learn, and they have since discovered that all children can benefit from the presence of a nonjudgmental pal. In one study, children were asked to read to a peer, an adult, and a dog. Researchers monitored their stress levels, and it comes as no surprise to me that the kids were most relaxed around the animal. A port in a storm Pets are a great source of comfort, to children as well as adults. In another study, when children were asked what advice they could give to less popular kids for making friends, their answer was to get a pet. Owning and loving an animal gives children something to easily talk about with their peers, as well as a common interest. When children were asked what they did when they felt emotions such as sorrow, anger, or fear, their response was that they turned to their pets for comfort and support. Children who got support from their animal companions were ranked by their parents as being less anxious and withdrawn. I remember as a young adult, I was talking to a good friend about getting a dog. She told me in no uncertain terms that she felt it was a bad idea. She strongly expressed that she felt adding a dog to my life would cause me to withdraw more from people and to become more reclusive. Well, nothing could have been further from the truth. I began to train my little disobedient furball. This introduced me to the world of canine performance sports and therapy work. So my love of animals continued to build my confidence and life skills in the world of humans; a huge benefit to the lifestyle that I embraced and carry on to this day. Even my brother believed dog ownership would be just another flighty whim, but I proved everybody wrong. Pets teach us Animals teach children compassion and nurturing. Animals are a great bridge in teaching children caregiving skills and responsibility, preparing them for the very important roles of parenthood later in life. Children learn kindness and responsibility through pet ownership. Their interaction must be closely monitored and guided by adults, of course. I clearly remember one incident I had as a very young child. I picked up my cat by its tail, because I was perceiving it as a handle of sorts. I was immediately scolded by an adult, and I remember how upset and humiliated I felt. Obviously it was never my intention to hurt my cat. At this very tender age, I had to be told that my actions were incorrect and not to be repeated. It is funny how that memory remains so clear to me so many years later. But it was an important lesson. Young children do not understand the proper handling of a pet and must be supervised and taught how to be gentle, and also taught to give the pet the necessary space and alone time that the pet requires and deserves. Pets keep us going Pets can keep a child active, healthy, and happy. Playing with a dog or cat will offer physical face-to-face interaction, and time away from modern technology is always a good thing. According to a study of a pediatrician, having multiple pets can actually decrease a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. Children who had animals had fewer positive skin tests to indoor allergens like pet and dust-mite allergens as well as outdoor allergens such as ragweed and grass. Pets can help to build family bonds. A pet is often the focus of an activity that the family does together. I began to show my first Cairn Terrier, Casey, whenever time allowed. My brother would accompany me to the show site and proudly take many, many pictures. I lost my beloved brother at a very young age, and the memories of sharing something that meant so much to me will remain forever in my heart. Pets will often accompany the family on vacation, and children will cherish the fun and adventures they share with their furry family member. When I was a teenager, my sister owned a horse. She would go on long trail rides, and I wanted to accompany her. She kept her horse at the end of a long and winding dirt road, one mile off the main thoroughfare. She would ride her horse down this long road, and then on other trails through the woods. And I would walk alongside the horse. I loved shared time with the horse, if only at her side, as well as time in the outdoors. In those days, it was fun, not work, to walk for miles. And I also spent valuable alone time having long chats with my older sister. Learning responsibility Giving children responsibility for their pets such as walks, feeding, brushing, etc., teaches lifelong lessons that will build their character and teach compassion and caring. Always be sure that these chores have been completed by the child so the animal does not suffer and has its routine meals, fresh water, and daily exercise. I truly believe that someone who is patient and kind to animals can be the same with people. Children and pets just go together! Enjoy each day with your children and furkids! Happy summer. Dog bless. Resource: Bill Strickland/Parents Magazine Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.