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Top 5 Benefits Of Children Growing Up With Pets

When I was a little child, my letter to Santa every year read the same. “Dear Santa, I’ve been good. Please bring me a puppy for Christmas this year.” And although I was good and Santa was very generous, somehow my Christmas wish came true only when I turned 23. There’s lots written about pets making great companions for adults and the aged but the true gift of a pet lies in growing up with one. Beyond the initial excitement of bringing home a puppy, kitten or even a chick, there are various scientifically proven advantages of growing up with pets. Here are the top 5:

1. Emotional Development: 

Although just not through ownership of a pet, but more from caring for a pet, children learn to develop strong emotional bonds from growing up with a pet. A review of 22 studies on the impact of companion animals on children, the authors concluded that growing up with pets is linked to higher emotional and cognitive development. This helps children build empathy and respect. Bonding with pets helps children with special needs, particularly those with ADHD, Autism, develop empathy and better social behaviours. Kids develop better self-esteem from experiencing unconditional love from a pet. And in the inevitable experience of the passing of a pet, children learn to grieve and bereave. 

2. Companionship :

Children love companionship and as we are about to find out, it isn’t limited to human companionship. Children with pets are less likely to experience loneliness as a study by Rhoades, H.; Winetrobe, H.; Rice,  has shown. Pets also provide comfort to children. In a study by Dr Melson, on a group of 5-year-olds, who were asked what they did when they were lonely, sad, angry, more than 40% mentioned turning to their pets. Pets make great friends as they are loyal and unconditional in their affection. 

3. Responsibility:

By caring for a pet, children learn about nurturing and taking responsibility for another living being. Although at all times, children will need adult supervision while caring for pets, the daily tasks of feeding, walking, grooming the pet, give children the opportunity of taking responsibility at a fairly young age. This again is linked to higher self-esteem as they build confidence from being able to nurture another living creature. 

4. Health Benefits:

Having a pet in the house lowers the risk of developing asthma or allergies in children. Kids with pets get more physical activity – to walk, run and play with a pet. Cuddling and petting an animal is therapeutic for many. It helps reduce anxiety and stress.

A study by the Children, Adolescent and Animals Research(CAAR) from the University of Edinburgh showed that growing up with pets has a positive influence on the health and well being of the child.

Research has shown that the presence of service dogs around children with Autism also helps in bringing down the level of cortisol, which is the stress response hormone present in the body. Pets can help children with special needs to reduce anxiety and calm themselves. 

5. Social Skills:

Pets are great icebreakers and thereby can help children ease out in social situations. Also by learning to train a pet, children learn patience and better impulse control. While it’s more common for girls to naturally experience nurturing by caring for younger siblings, caring for pets, gives boys what they see as a more acceptable way to practice parenting, thereby learning important life skills. Interaction with pets also helps children with Autism develop confidence and also better physical contact.

There’s no doubt on the benefits of your child growing up with a pet. That being said, make sure to do your research on what pet is suitable for your home and lifestyle. Adopt, don’t shop, stay away from illegal breeders and puppy mills. Bring home a pet only when you are ready to commit to caring for it for life. Once you open your heart and home to a pet, it won’t take long for you and your family to experience the joys and love of an animal.  

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An Open Letter to My Second-Born

Rona Pinto

Dear second baby of mine,

Anyone who isn’t a firstborn is completely aware of the second baby syndrome. It is the blatantly differential treatment meted out to the child who is born after the first one. My first baby had all my attention, time, fuss and coddling. You on the other hand, and I’m going to be brutally honest here, had barely any of it. Having complained about being treated similarly when I was growing up (and I was the third in the family, imagine that), in a few months after you were born, I recognized that I had evolved into the exact same kind of parent.

Here’s how starkly different parenting can look like for the first and the second born. For starters, I haven’t clicked 200 million pictures of you, roughly about 23 a day, as I did with your older brother. Neither did I fuss over settling you into a schedule that all babies supposedly love. That pregnancy journal I painstakingly made the first time around, I haven’t had the time to even look at it since you were born, forget making a whole new one for the time I was expecting you. 

While I meticulously observed and wrote down every meal timing, burp, poop, number of wet diapers etc of my firstborn, with you, we both were lucky if I found my hands free to pick you up the second you cried. I didn’t even buy you too many new clothes, because I had piles of hand-me-downs that were perfect for you. Gosh, at times, I wonder how unfair it has been, how much lesser I have fussed over you, I wonder if I was even a good mom. 

I stop to think of all the things I did differently this time. Yes, it’s true I didn’t click a photo every time you smiled or moved, but that’s because this time I had learnt to enjoy the moment and keep that camera aside. I didn’t fuss over your meal and sleep times as much, but that’s what made you such an easy baby. I could make plans for the family and you just played along. No, I didn’t have time to make that pregnancy journal, I spent that time with your older brother instead, so he’d look forward to welcoming you and boy did he love you at first sight. 

I’m glad I didn’t spend time buying you all those new clothes, I learnt to spend it on something less fleeting, for god knows you outgrew those clothes pretty quick. I didn’t worry if the place was clean enough, or if you were out crawling in the garden, or if the weather was warm or cold, we took you everywhere, without a worry and you loved every bit of it. I didn’t dash out to pick you up the second you whimpered because I was sure I knew to care for you without worrying and knowing exactly when you really needed something. 

My firstborn had a novice mom, unsure of her baby. We learnt everything on the go and figured it out along the way. While I did click pictures or every smile of his, I also incessantly worried every time he as much sneezed and got nervous if he refused a spoon of cereal. You, on the other hand, had a mom who was confident of caring for you, juggling two kids and everything else in between and still felt in control of everything. So dear second baby, it’s true, I wasn’t a good mom the second time around, I definitely was a better one. 

Love, 

Mom.

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What They Don’t’ Tell You About Being a First-Time Mother

Rona Pinto

Hello,

first-time mothers to be. Have you by now gotten used to friends or family touching your belly, talking to it and even kissing it maybe? Or do you now expect even strangers to give you their prediction of whether you are carrying a boy or a girl? They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what they don’t tell you is that a village also wants to be a part of each step of your pregnancy.

When I was expecting my first child, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean I knew my belly was going to expand five times its size and that I was expected to be hungry every couple of hours (such a myth by the way, since I was hungry every minute) but beyond that, all  I expected was a rosy baby shower, lots of pampering from the hubby and the liberties that came with being pregnant. My friends wouldn’t let me carry as much as even a 2 kg bag of groceries. 

What everyone told me about motherhood 

Everything about pregnancy and being a first-time mother seemed to be learning on the way. Once the initial euphoria of the baby announcement abated and the congratulatory messages flooded my inbox, I was in for whole new schooling about being a first-time mother. First came the warnings about those sleepless nights. Parents of little ones smirked as they told me, “Sleep now, you won’t have a peaceful night once the baby comes”. I wondered if my body had a sleep bank, where I could deposit hours of sleep now and avail the benefits later. (And no, it doesn’t just so you know). Then came the whole “Enjoy your free time now, you won’t have any once you have the baby”. 

Some told me to enjoy the last few months of enjoying my hobbies and doing what I love. It was apparently going to be a thing of the past soon. Not one to regret later, I baked a treat every day and strummed my guitar like it was going to be the last time. Every parent I met had only words of caution in store. My once confident self slowly began to lose its grip on me. 

With the constant bombardment of how I was headed for doomsday, I lay in bed one night, my baby bump taking the space of two, anguishing over what I had gotten myself into. I was convinced that no amount of baby books on pregnancy and parenting were going to prepare me enough for this new chapter in my life. (This part is true, nothing can fully prepare you for having a baby). I wondered why everyone was out there to scare me like I hadn’t already considered the big changes that a new baby would bring in my life.

What no one told me about motherhood.

Two months and one C-section later, I held my 6.5 pounds baby in my arms for the first time, mentally prepared for feeling uncertain and hopeless. Then I looked at my bony baby boy. He was a vision of peace and an assurance that God still loved the world. Yes, I had been warned about how the surgery would leave me feeling like my body had been ripped apart, but what they hadn’t told me was that my heart would explode with joy when I held my baby close to me. Those sleepless nights they cautioned me about? The first night we came home, I lay awake at 3 in the morning, just to watch how peaceful and beautiful my baby looked when he slept. I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. (Of course, as the weeks progressed and I found myself snoozing at 10 in the morning, I found a more suitable time in the day to admire his beauty. 

Yes, it was hard to know what made him cry or uncomfortable. Colic wasn’t fun when it showed up like an unwelcome guest at 6.45, every evening, for weeks. Some days, I felt like I just couldn’t do it. Only minutes later I’d find that my familiar voice which had made little conversations with him while he was in my womb, soothed him like magic. All those songs I played and sung for him those 9 months, seemed to calm him down in an instant. This is something that everyone missed telling me; that my baby and I would figure each other out as days went by. This was MY baby and I would know how to care for him.

Of course, the changes were huge, my “Me Time” had suddenly diminished, but no one had warned me about the joy I would feel when my baby first smiled at me, or about the time he’d giggle every time he heard me sneeze. What about the pride I would feel when he learnt to roll over or crawl to reach a toy or coo and call for me. It was something I had never experienced.

And what they should have told me before anything else

It gets better. It only gets better. As the weeks passed, the colic went away, my baby slept longer hours at night and gently fell into a workable schedule. This coupled with the sound of his giggle, his infectious smile, his calm cooing, all brought me a sense of wonder and elation I had never imagined before. 

All those warnings they gave me about the demanding changes a baby would bring were all, well mostly true. But I already knew about those. Don’t we all? It’s all we hear about when someone is having a baby. So if you are going to be first-time mom, I want to for once prepare you to experience a kind of love, that you didn’t know existed, a strength for getting through you didn’t know you even had within you and happiness that will surmount all the challenges a baby will bring. Good Luck. You are going to be okay.