A pet is often a child’s first confidante, soul mate, and sometimes, their partner in crime. No doubt about it, kids and their pets share a special bond. We’re exploring that deep connection as well as the ways that children and pets learn from each other.
Does your local shelter have a story time program? It’s a great way for shy or stressed shelter animals to build their confidence. While the animal is in their enclosure, a child sits outside and reads a storybook to them. So while the children are improving their reading skills, their companion animal begins to regain trust in humans. Visiting the shelter might also ignite a child’s passion for animal welfare.
There’s nothing more heart-warming than reading stories of children whose confidence, sense of responsibility, and social skills blossomed with the help of an animal companion. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) strengthens the bond between child and animal while also teaching valuable life skills. Children are matched with animals that best suit their personality and the type of support they need.
Researchers have found that therapy animals have a positive effect on child development including increased “self-esteem, cognitive development, and social skills.” As a result, these children can take their newfound skills and participate confidently at school as well as in social situations.
Sometimes as part of therapy, children are encouraged to teach their therapy animal a new trick. When the child sees their pet or therapy animal master the skill they taught them, their sense of self-worth improves. The child can take pride in both the animal’s accomplishments and their own!
The benefits children gain from being around their pets go beyond the home setting. They can take the empathy, trust, and other skills that they learn from therapy or pet ownership and apply it to other areas of their life. By learning to confide in a pet who gives them unconditional love and no judgement, a shy child can learn how to open up to others. By keeping up with an energetic dog, children are empowered to lead a more active life.
Pets can have a calming, therapeutic effect on their human family members. A trip to the dentist is a stressful situation for any child. For a child with special needs, that stress can be magnified causing extreme anxiety. That’s why some medical offices allow therapy animals to accompany children to their appointments. This creates a more relaxed environment that benefits the child, their parents, and the medical professionals performing the check-ups.
The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto offers this type of companionship. The PAWS program is designed for children undergoing medical scans. These types of innovative programs are revolutionizing the ways medical professionals provide care for child patients.
The connection between animals and children is a beautiful thing.
Learning and growing together, it’s a bond to be cherished.