Kids and pets simply go well together, and there are good reasons for it. Science is trying to catch up and explain all the ways in which pets positively impact our lives. Recent research shows that owning a dog, for example, has a beneficial effect on our overall well-being – starting with our body’s brain chemistry. Read on for more details.
Brain chemistry is better when we play with pets
A scientific study was done on the effect of owning a pet, and the results of the study are amazing. Playing with pets, mainly dogs and cats, and stroking them causes a bigger (and faster) release of certain hormones in our brain. The hormones whose levels increased are the so-called ‘happiness hormones’, namely serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin. The changes were noticeable after only a few minutes of petting the dog. At the same time, cortisol – the stress hormone – was decreasing.
Emotional responses are more positive
The discovery of the positive changes in brain chemistry, in relation to pets, was big news and suddenly it became much clearer why owning pets tends to help with mood, and relieve stress and depression. This is because happiness hormones released into our body do just that – they make us happier and improve our mood.
When we’re around pets, our nervous system relaxes and calms down and we experience feelings of pleasure and peace. We become more patient, compassionate and loving. When kids grow up around pets, they store all of these early experiences into their emotional memory banks, which create the behavioral pattern that they tend to follow later in life – in order to feel good and be happy, they are being good to animals and other beings.
Kids learn through experience
Children are much more present in the now moment than adults are, and they pay more attention to what is going on around them. As this includes the life of their pets as well, it is not a surprise that they develop a deep connection. This is why owning a pet from an early age can teach your kids much about animals and life in general.
Of course, in the beginning, you should teach them how to treat their pets – touch them gently, approach them slowly and carefully, not hit them and so on. However, most kids will experiment and see how far they can go with a pet, because they usually learn via trial and error. They will learn that animals need to be treated with love and compassion if one expects to get on with them well, and they will figure out that these relations are not much different than the ones with people.
Responsibility deepens compassion and empathy
Kids can start doing simple pet care chores, like feeding and cleaning food bowls, even at the age of 4. Later, you can add more chores like walking and grooming the pet, buying specialized pet food online and so on. There might be days when kids will simply forget to feed their pet or change their water. When this happens they will be sorry, or even sad, because they will empathize with their pet since this is a being they love and are friends with. Certainly, you will monitor all of their activities and won’t let the animal starve, but do make an effort to explain to your kid that pets hurt when they are hungry in the same way humans
Certainly, you will monitor all of their activities and won’t let the animal starve, but do make an effort to explain to your kid that pets hurt when they are hungry in the same way humans do, and teach them the importance of taking the proper care of their pet friend.
If there is even the slightest potential that getting a pet for your kids will turn them into better people in the long run, why would you think twice about it?
About the author:
Tracey Clayton is a full-time mom of three girls. She loves cooking, baking, sewing, spending quality time with her daughters and she’s passionate about writing. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”