14 Apr, 2021 Childrens Mental Health: Benefits In Owning A Dog
by Angie Camp
Man’s Best Friend
Can having a dog really benefit your child’s mental health?
When it comes to dogs, every home with children most likely falls in one of two categories: Either the family has adopted one (or more) for the children, or they children are begging for one. For those who haven’t bitten the bullet yet, what’s the hold up? There are certainly a few potential reasons. Some parents question if it’s a good idea to have a pet with a small child. They also understand that owning a pet can be expensive and is a huge responsibility.
While this is true, having a canine in the home brings mental health benefits that make it worth it. In fact, growing up with a dog can be greatly beneficial for a child’s development and overall mental health. Recent studies show three primary ways dogs benefit children’s mental health, helping them become better people.
Dogs are a Source of Comfort and Companionship
There is nothing quite as comforting as the affection of a dog. These faithful and trustworthy companions never let us down. No matter what…they are loyal. These attributes foster a feeling of safety and build confidence. It is of greater value during times of transition, such as adolescence. Canine companions can make a child feel understood and supported.
Growing Up With Dogs Develops Social and Emotional Intelligence
Another mental health benefit is that children have greater confidence in social interactions, as well as, better overall social skills. A recent study published in the Pediatric Research Journal examined how dog ownership influenced social and emotional development in preschool children. It gave promising results, showing fewer behavioral and social problems among children with a canine present in the home. Additionally, they tend to have better-coping skills in social situations. This can prove especially important among children with ADD and ADHD.
An aspect of a child’s development that is often underestimated is emotional intelligence. It is the basis for dealing with life’s challenges. This area of a child’s mental health is greatly aided by the unconditional support of a dog, which in turn, makes developing meaningful relationships with their peers much easier.
Taking Care of a Dog Teaches Responsibility
Finally, teaching a child how to care for a pet teaches responsibility. Feeding, grooming, bathing, and ensuring their dog gets enough exercise are activities even a child can participate in. By doing this, they learn responsibility and what it means to have another living being depend on them to have their needs met.
While the focus here has primarily been on cognitive development and mental health specifically, these are just a few of the benefits that come with being a dog-owner. The family pet can be a unifying factor that brings the family together, as they run and play outside, or simply lay on the floor, petting it as they watch a movie. Regardless of the activity, the unconditional love and loyalty of a dog can add great value to the lives of its humans.
So, maybe don’t be so quick to rule out owning a furry friend!
“But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
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Angie Camp is an author, speaker, and Christian Counselor. Aside from being a Mother and Grandmother “Peaches,” her primary focus is walking with women and girls along their journey from brokenness to healing, reminding them that the goal is not merely to survive, but to soar.
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