How Your Kids Can Benefit From a Family Pet

Exercise and Health

Pets are playmates — the kind who get kids outdoors and help them burn energy. Many dogs will fetch a ball for hours, play outfielder in neighborhood pickup games and go for endless walks. Cats often make kids laugh as they do flips over a teaser toy or chase a Ping Pong ball down the hall.

Even better, pets have health benefits. Children who are around pets during their first year of life reduce their risk of developing allergies to dogs and cats by as much as half, according to a study published in July 2011 in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy.

Pets teach children harder life lessons as well: that best friends can get old and die. A child may see a pet through an entire life cycle: puppy or kitten, adult, senior and eventually receiving the final grace of a peaceful death. It may be the first time the child experiences the death of a loved one and can be an opportunity to learn how to handle loss and grief.

Building that perfect relationship between pet and child takes work and practice on the part of parent and child, and even the pet, but I think it’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give your kids.

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