What child wouldn’t want a pet to keep them company? And what child doesn’t dream of having super powers? Well, maybe they can have both, if we work together to make it happen! Most children happily fall under the spell of our furry friends, and growing up with them has some very positive aspects. Let’s have a look at them.
1 – Respect and empathy – The first task of a superhero is to protect the weak. Having a pet is a good way to learn respect for animals but also for people. Taking care of an animal, learning its needs and habits, helps children become more respectful, responsible and aware of others’ needs. Also, learning to communicate with dogs or cats, observe their behaviour and build a positive relationship with them helps to enhance empathy and a capacity for socialization.
2 – Super-strength. Having a pet keeps people active: running around in the garden, taking walks or just having a constant companion at home all help to keep a child busy and boredom at bay, and the physical exercise helps him to grow strong and healthy.
3 – Immunity booster. Research has shown that health benefits from the interaction between children and domestic animals. Specifically, living with a pet from infancy “trains” the immune system and makes children less susceptible to allergies (both to animal hair and other common substances). Close contact with microbes carried by our pets helps the child develop greater resistance to certain illnesses.
4 – Self Esteem. It’s common knowledge that pet therapy is beneficial to people with physical or mental problems. Even those who don’t suffer from handicaps can benefit from the company of an animal: shy children become more expansive and outgoing when interacting with or talking about a pet. And there has never been a timid, insecure superhero!
5 – Maxi Serenity. Pet therapy not only teaches self-esteem. Having an animal close by, in fact, often calms a hyperactive child. A cat’s purring, for example, can be a source of calm and relaxation, while stroking and cuddling an animal fills the need for physical contact and transmits serenity. It would seem that our pets are the ones with superpowers.
“With great power comes great responsibility” is a phrase made famous by Spiderman’s uncle. So true, especially for parents in this context. It’s right for a child to take responsibility by caring for an animal, learning to feed it and understand its needs and habits, but the supervision of parents is always advisable, especially in the case of very young children.
The coexistence of animals and children does, however, have its risks, both for the animal and the child. Rough play can cause the animal to protect itself by scratching or biting; it could also hurt the animal. It is therefore very important to socialize both parties with patience, teaching reciprocal respect and supervising their interaction until the relationship has reached a certain level of security.
However, super powers or not, a wagging tail or a purring fur-ball waiting for us at home is always good medicine for young and old.