From playmate to soul mate, a family pet can tick all the boxes. We take a look at the benefits of growing up with a household pet…
You might think your family pet is nothing special – well think again – physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing of your child can all be impacted by having a pet – now that’s a whole lot of positive pet power!

Physical health benefits of pets

There’s the obvious physical benefits of having a pet that needs daily exercise and play – good for tackling childhood obesity which is becoming an epidemic. And then there’s the research that suggests that children’s exposure to companion animals may ease anxiety.  For example, one study measured blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 at two different doctor visits for routine physicals. 

At one visit a dog (unrelated to the child) was present in the room and at the other visit the dog was absent.  When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress.

Social and emotional health benefits of pets

When it comes to social and emotional benefits the family pet has that pretty much covered as well. Living with a pet can teach kids skills they use in social interaction with other humans. The belief that children can learn empathy and communication skills from animals has led to speculation about pets in the lives of people with autism. Some children who have great difficulty with human social interactions can form deep bonds with animals. There is some evidence, but it’s largely anecdotal, that bringing a dog into households of children with autism has a dramatic effect on the behavior of these kids.

Some studies also show that kids who are attached to their pets tend to function better emotionally as well. And the positive feedback your child receives from caring for a pet can help them feel competent and responsible, leading to higher self-esteem. You just can’t beat the unconditional love of a pet. The following provide an interesting read on social and emotional impacts of owning a pet:

http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2010/04/14/positive-effects-of-owning-a-pet.aspx

What the kids say about their pets…

The strongest evidence of the importance of pets comes from children themselves, who often cite pets as sources of emotional support.
A recent University of Liverpool study of more than 1000 children has shown that the bond between a child and their pet is a significant part of growing up. It found that 80% of the 1,000 children that took part in the research, considered their pet a member of the family and half confided in their pets as they would a friend. The study revealed that more than a third of children believe their pets understand how they feel.

The researchers concluded that pets play a crucial role in the development of children; allowing them to socialise, care for and nurture others. For more on the study click here http://news.liv.ac.uk/2013/06/14/study-shows-how-children-relate-to-their-pets/