How Pets Can Help Children Develop EQ

Saturday 15th February is National Pet Adoption day in Australia. This is a perfect time to reflect on all the amazing benefits pets bring to our lives, and to consider adopting a pet if you have the space and time.

Pets are a cherished part of most people’s childhoods. Not only do they give unconditional love, they also provide opportunities for children to develop emotional intelligence. EQ (emotional quotient) refers to the ability to identify, evaluate and regulate emotions. Not only does EQ enable kids to build relationships and care for others, it’s also linked to academic success.

Some kindergarten teachers claim that EQ is more important for those starting school than being able to hold a pencil or read. The great thing about EQ is that unlike IQ, it’s not fixed. It can be nurtured and developed over time, and pets are ideal for this purpose.

Pets help children:

Develop Empathy: Looking after a living creature is a huge responsibility. Children must learn to think about their pet’s requirements, which allows them to recognise that other people also have needs. Even very young children can contribute to pet care by filling water bowls and brushing fur, building an emotional connection that fosters empathy.

Understand Non-verbal Cues:  As pets are non-verbal, children must learn how to identify their emotions through their physical gestures such as a wagging tail or laid- back ears. This helps children become more attuned to people’s non-verbal signals. Pets also help develop verbal skills as kids love talking to animals.

Self-Regulate: When a pet becomes scared or upset by loud noises and boisterous behaviour, kids must learn to regulate their behaviour to provide comfort. For example, they may need to pat the animal more gently and lower their voice, helping them understand how their actions affect others.

Build Confidence: It can be a battle to get kids to look after pets once the novelty has worn off, but it’s worth it to persevere. Being entrusted with the care of a pet builds self-esteem. Even having a pet in the classroom has been found to boost confidence. When children care for an animal, they feel more equipped to look after themselves, helping them become more independent.

Relax: Pets are calming, which is why they’re used for therapy. Not only do they make kids laugh and reduce stress, they provide an outlet for them to share their fears and worries. In one academic study, children consistently named their pets when asked who they’d talk to about a problem. Pets have also been found to boost literacy skills by easing kids’ anxiety about reading aloud. Many teachers have introduced them in the classroom for this reason.

Accept Loss: Losing a pet at any age is painful, but it’s particularly difficult for children. Through this loss children learn important lessons about the cycle of life which helps build resilience for the future.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any family, offering many emotional benefits for children.