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It’s about time that I formally introduced Caramel, the newest member of my family and of PopSmartKids. He joined our family in the summer of 2021 and was named Caramel by my two kids. If you take one look at him, you would know why - his coat is a luscious brown with speckles of white, the color you get when you stir a few spoonfuls of cream with caramel. He matches my kids’ level of energy and is one of the most social beings you would ever meet. I have never seen him ‘not happy’ to meet someone. He will be your best buddy if you just play with him or pet him and say ‘yes’ to belly rubs, at any time of the day. He is a pretty quiet dog and quite the gentleman (as you can see).
But sometimes he does eat our website. Don’t worry, he finished his puppy training summa cum laude and is striving to be better every day.
It is a well-known fact that there are many benefits to kids growing up with pets - be it fish, cats, dogs, or guinea pigs. For us, it was the kids who insisted on having a pet but the dog has really helped me manage my mental health more than I could ever imagine.
During our recent Holiday trip, while we were stranded on our layover at the airport, we were pleasantly surprised to see a group of people, each walking with a dog by their side. As we started chatting with one of the owners we learnt that they are part of an organization where they walk around with trained dogs to ease stress for travelers who have been waiting at an airport for long periods of time or simply to ease the pressure of travelling. This is a great example of how critical animals can be to our well-being.
Here are five ways that pets can be beneficial to growing children.
A research done by Dennis Ownby, M.D., a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department of the Medical College of Georgia, has proven that kids exposed to pets at a younger age are half as likely to develop common allergies as those who had no pets at home. When we were adopting the little puppy, we weren’t really aware of this but raising two kids at home, we sure are happy learning about this. These might be long term effects, but for now, we are feeling the joy of adding this new member to our family.
Pets at home are a great source of comfort and can regulate anxiety. In many circumstances, animals help kids improve impulse control, social skills and self-control. It is no secret that cuddling a pet reduces stress, anxiety and loneliness. This is true not just for the kids, but for adults as well. My pup at home provides an easy way to take breaks between my work commitments. The comfort of contact from pets provides kids with a sense of connection that lasts for life. Pets also show kids how to express love and affection by petting, hugging and kissing.
Educators and counselors have long known that therapy animals (dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs etc.) help developmentally-challenged children to learn. New research shows that all children benefit from interacting with pets. Just like us adults, kids go through various levels of stress and emotional ups and downs. Unlike humans, pets are non-judgmental, which allows us to be relaxed around them. This helps kids to be mindful and focus on learning. Studies have shown that in many cases children can be inspired to read with a pet to practice their reading skills.
Nothing teaches you more about having empathy than taking care of another living being. In this case, parents can be role models. With the right kind of support from them, kids learn to take care of their pets. They learn to love and respect other living things. While they are responsible for taking care of their dogs or cats they learn to be nurturing and compassionate, skills that will go a long way in their lives. Life with pets can provide lessons about both life and loss. Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges an additional common bond among the siblings as well as among all the family members.
Pets help us to add movement to our daily routine. Especially if you have a dog, they need to be taken out for walks. That allows you and your children to be outside, to play and to go on hikes as a family. Even if you don’t need to leave the house, pets give you an opportunity to ‘get your wiggles out’, otherwise known as adding some movement to a common sedentary lifestyle. Pets are a great way for kids to run and play and stay engaged. In my house, Caramel forces us to get outside, rain or shine - a routine we have come to love and appreciate. Having a pet is a great way to stay mindful and lead a balanced life.
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