Improving mental health with pets

Pets are one way to help improve mental health in children. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have some helpful info for families looking to get a pet:

Choosing an Appropriate Pet

Pets are part of many children's lives. Parental involvement, open discussion, and planning are necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone. A child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and the child involved.

Caring for a Pet

Taking care of a pet can help children develop social skills. However, certain guidelines apply:

Advantages of Pet Ownership

Children raised with pets show many benefits. Developing positive feelings about pets can contribute to a child's self-esteem and self-confidence. Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Pets can serve different purposes for children:

Other physical and emotional needs fulfilled by pet ownership include:

Although most children are gentle and appropriate with pets, some may be overly rough or even abusive. If such behavior persists, it may be a sign of significant emotional problems. Any child who abuses, tortures, or kills animals should be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a comprehensive evaluation.

Author
Dr. Kleber