Anyone who has visited our office knows how much we love our furry friends — after all, we’ve recently launched the Brave Like Coco campaign, where our chocolate Labrador Coco MacKoul helps calm kids kids who have anxiety and stress about doctor’s visits.
Raising your children with pets provides great opportunities for learning responsibility, commitment, and for encouraging healthy relationship skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Your pets will be your little ones’ first best friends. They will learn social skills, play skills, and eventually empathy from your four-legged family members. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
Pets can serve different purposes for children, such as:
- Safe recipients of secrets
- Providing lessons about life
- Developing responsible behavior in children who help care for them
- Providing a direct connection to nature and all the lessons
- Teaching respect for other living things
- Encouraging physical activity and establishing routine and structure
Futhermore, some current studies even suggest that animal contact may have an influence on the maturation of the immune system in infancy, leading to shorter duration of infections and better resistance to respiratory infections during early childhood. Other studies have found animal companions to provide a whole host of mental benefits. Snuggling with or petting your fuzzy friend has even been found to lower blood pressure and stress levels, help alleviate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. There is clinical data to back this up, especially when it comes to trauma survivors and people who suffer from PTSD.
While bringing a pet into the home may enrich your life, it is definitely a decision not be be taken lightly. Animals require care and attention, so it is important to consider whether or not your family has the time (and resources, both in terms of money but also in terms of room and space for the animal) needed for the pet you choose.
If full-time pet ownership isn’t right for your family, consider other ways to help your children connect with animals. They can enjoy some of the benefits by pet sitting for family members, dog walking for neighbors, or even volunteering for an animal rescue organization.
- Make sure your pets get regular checkups at the vet and are fully vaccinated.
- Get your family in the habit of washing their hands after contact with an animal, including your pet
- Teach kids to be gentle with pets
Teach kids to step away calmly (and not run) when an animal is over-energetic
- Let your child tease or corner an animal
- Play games that teach pets to play rough with kids, especially infants
- Leave newborns or young children alone with pets
- Let kids bother animals while they are eating or playing with a chew toy
- Yell at your pets as they adjust to life with a new family member
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about integrating a pet into your home or a newborn into your already pet-friendly family, please feel free to contact your local Cape Coral and Fort Myers pediatrician here at MacKoul Pediatrics. We are always happy to offer help or advice.
MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.
April 20, 2018