Pets can play a crucial role in your child’s development – you just have to find the right one. Here’s how.
When it comes to getting a family pet, you’re not just bringing home a friend for your kids, you’re helping them develop as a person.
Research shows that pets teach kids values such as responsibility, empathy and positive attachment as well as social and emotional skills.
ACPC Psychology’s principal developmental psychologist Azza Brown says it’s important that children learn to care for someone other than themselves.
“Animals need food and shelter, nurturing and care. They teach a lot of important values and impact how children treat other people, gently and with kindness,” she says.
“Emotional regulation is another aspect. Kids that could be sad or have anxiety say that when they are with their pet, everything feels better.
“They feel secure and calm.”
Ms Brown says chores such as filling a bowl with food and water help with a child’s motor skills.
“As they get older and become more capable you can give them more tasks, such as cleaning up after pets,” she says.
“It ties in with that sense of responsibility, that this is a family and the pet is part of the family system.”
As a mother of four kids and three dogs, TV vet Dr Lisa Chimes agrees that children thrive from this sense of responsibility.
“It is empowering them to take charge and it not only improves their ability to be leaders but also teaches them empathy,” she says.
“I can see a difference in kids who do and don’t have pets, kids who have animals have more empathy in how they treat others. Pets make for a very well-rounded child.”
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Dr Lisa’s tips on the best pets for kids
Can be great if they have the right personality. Often, it’s not the type of animal, but the pet’s personality.
Kids won’t be able to do as much but can be involved in feeding and cleaning cages. It’s the same with fish, non-contact pets can be a good introduction for more nervous kids.
Guinea pigs, mice and rats are great. Rats make good pets for kids, they’re quite intelligent and tend to be very adaptable.
They are risky. They’re very wriggly and accidents can happen if they fall out of a child’s arms.