Children’s Mental Health Week aims to help us grow together to stop children from facing mental health problems alone. It is estimated that one in six children have a diagnosable mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges – ranging from bullying to bereavement.
Recent industry research has demonstrated the overwhelmingly positive impact that is owning a pet can have on well-being, with 90% of dog owners and 85% of cat owners being better off because of the positive impact owning a pet has on their lives.
In line with Children’s Mental Health Week, Kevin Thackrah, director of pet-care specialists Petpals, shares his insight on why owning a pet could have a life-changing impact on your child.
‘When you hear the phrase a pet is for life, it’s not only about the responsibility of the owner,’ said Kevin. ‘In fact, it is also about the life-changing impact that owning a pet will have on the rest of your family and, crucially, your children. When you have access to a pet from an early age, you are shaped by those interactions, and studies show an increased positive correlation between owning a pet and a child’s long-term well-being.’
Here, Kevin shares some of the elements as to why owning a pet has such a beneficial impact on your child’s mental health.
Care and commitment
Looking after a pet helps you develop positive habits, which will stay with you for the rest of your life. With children now more prone than ever to opt for time on an electronic device rather than partaking in some good old fashioned exercise, the responsibility of owning a pet will give them a compelling reason to do so. These pet-centric responsibilities will not only lead to more engagement and an increased level of serotonin in your child but also a sense of commitment that they will keep forever.
Keep your child’s tail wagging
The constant love and affection of a pet is a powerful tool in supporting your child against common issues such as anxiety. Due to the loving interactions with their pet, a child is more likely to develop a positive self-image. These experiences will not only help in the short term, but they can create lasting confidence that will help a child form healthy bonds throughout their life.
The language of pets
Owning a pet can build strong communication skills in your child. In my experience, a child who owns a pet will want to discuss their pet all the time. This can be with their peers in class or when they see grandparents and other relatives outside of school. Whatever the occasion, a child will be openly excited to talk about all things pets.
Your child will be engaged and interested in the subject matter, from feeding your cat to why your rabbit must go to the veterinarian. Building these communication skills early on will make a big difference to your child’s well-being as they develop.
Successfully looking after a pet is a wonderful and fulfilling feeling for a child. Not only will they receive plenty of love and affection from their pet for doing this, but they will also get a feeling of immense satisfaction for being great at something. Why is this significant? Because caring for another living thing feels good and increases your sense of self-worth. The impact of this positive emotion will then translate into other healthy emotions for your child.
The perfect friend
Pets can help children with disabilities develop strategies for coping in times of stress. As a parent, you will need to take care and spend time teaching your child how to interact with the pet safely. However, once both the pet and the child are trained, the relationship that they develop can be hugely beneficial to your child and their mental health.
For more information about Petpals’ pet-care services, visit here.
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