I already know that having pets and learning to care for them CAN help children develop empathy. But I did not know how much more this can help them further down the road.
I just finished reading an article on this very topic in Parenthood by Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a pediatric psychiatrist. She recommends teaching toddlers to “listen” to what the family dog needs. So, instead of grabbing him for a hug, maybe play fetch with him, something that he adores. And instead of chasing the cat and make her run away, to sit still and encourage the kitty to come closer for a scratch behind the ears.
Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Ramakrishna’s article:
When children learn that animals are creatures with their own wants and needs, rather than toys or objects for us to use, that attitude naturally carries over into their actions with their fellow human beings. Empathy and compassion give children the ability to consider the perspective of others and act accordingly, which is a key component of emotional intelligence. Research studies have shown that a child’s emotional intelligence is a stronger predictor of future social and occupational success than traditional I.Q. scores. As they grow up, children who have learned empathy and compassion will become trustworthy friends, valued co-workers, and respected members of their community.
You can read the entire article here.
Article source: Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna on Parenthood
Image source: Todd Morris on Flickr.com