The Health Benefits of Kids Having a Pet
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Pets teach kids to take responsibility.
Pets, just like humans, require love and care in order to thrive. Animals depend on their owners to meet their basic needs. “With a pet in the house, even the youngest toddler can pick up pointers about responsibility and learn about the importance of being kind and gentle,” Fiorentino says. Children, she says, “realize that pets, just like people, need food, shelter, exercise, and love,” all valuable lessons for kids to learn at an early age.
Steve Gruber, director of communications at the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, says caring for a pet is an invaluable experience, especially at a young age. “For some kids, it’ll be the first time they’ll have been responsible for a living being,” he says. Seeing how your child reacts to taking on responsibility for a living creature may help you understand your child’s social and emotional strengths better, too.
Pets teach kids about the circle of life.
Losing a pet is like losing a member of your family, and while it’s hard to talk about, children who experience this loss learn a great deal about life. “The end of a pets’ life could be a child’s first experience with death,” Gruber says. “It’s something we need to accept, learning about that part of life.” Coping and healing from the loss of a pet positions children to better understand the cycle of life, and when the time comes to deal with another death in the family, they’ll be better equipped to understand their emotions during that difficult time.
Ready to adopt a pet?
From emotional support to teachable moments, the health benefits of owning a pet are vast and can have a positive impact on your family. If you’re ready to bring a pet into your home but you’re not sure where to start, Gruber suggests attending an adoption event or visiting a local shelter, where your family can meet a variety of animals. Most important, he says, is that every member of the family is involved in the process. “The whole family should meet the animal and help with the selection to understand who they’re adopting,” he says. “Adoption is a lifetime commitment for the life of the pet.”
In the end, though, it’s a lifetime commitment that will benefit your family just as much as the animal you’re adopting.