Pets are fantastic companions for children and adults alike. They are nonjudgmental, love you unconditionally, and teach important life lessons, especially when it comes to helping your child learn responsibility, compassion, and patience. You may consider the benefits of adopting a pet for your child.

Stress Reduction 

Being adopted can bring forth a host of emotions for kids: happiness, relief, grief, sadness, insecurity, loneliness, and more. Moving into a new home is a stressful experience. Adopting a pet may help your adoptee feel more at ease during his or her transition. 

In a study, 100 pet-owning families come to the lab with their dogs. The researchers had the children complete both a mental arithmetic task and a public speaking task, activities that are known to raise cortisol levels in the body (a biological indicator of a body’s response to stress) and evoke feelings of anxiety. Both tasks simulate real-life stressors for kids. 

Children were randomly assigned to perform the tasks with either their dog present, their parent present, or by themselves. Saliva samples were collected from the children before and after the stressful experience in order to measure the level of cortisol in the body. 

Results showed that children who had their dog present during the stressful experience reported feeling less stressed than children who experienced the stressor alone or with a parent. The researchers also found that children who encouraged their dogs to interact with them (such as sitting with them, snuggling them, or letting them stroke their fur)  had lower cortisol levels than children who didn’t engage with their dogs as much in the midst of stress. These results indicate that interacting with a pet can be an effective way to lower kids’ anxiety levels during stressful situations in life. 

Pets Reduce Loneliness 

Pets make amazing companions, so don’t be surprised if your pet ends up becoming your child’s best friend. Moving from a foster home to your home will be stressful for your child, since he or she may be leaving behind school, teachers, caretakers, and friends. Your child may feel lonely as he or she adjusts to your home. Having a pet to rely on during the adjustment may help your child feel more comfortable in the process. 

I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for a child adopted from another country at an older age to adjust to America. He or she not only leaves familiar caretakers and friends, but they may also lack the ability to communicate in a new language. Your adoptee may easily connect with a pet. Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance, which can be invaluable to a child trying to adjust to a new country away from everything he or she knows. 

This benefit isn’t only available to international adoptees. In fact, it’s often easier for most people to connect with their pets than with other people. While you absolutely should encourage your adoptee to talk to you about his or her emotions, there are some things your adoptee might be hesitant to bring up with you. For instance, your adoptee may bottle up feelings like grief or fears. A pet gives your child an opportunity to cope with those feelings.

Pets Help You and Your Child Make Connections 

I cannot tell you how many friends I’ve made because we both own and love cats.  Most people desire to connect with others and pets provide them with something to connect over. Don’t be surprised if neighbors stop and say hello for a minute when you take your dog out for a walk. Take your adoptee out on walks with you and your pet. You’ll likely meet your neighbors, and some of those neighbors may have children of their own you can set up playdates with. 

Pet-specific or pet-friendly events are also wonderful opportunities to meet local families. For instance, there is a church down the road from me that holds an annual blessing of the animals. One of our local shelters holds an annual fundraising event where dogs are welcome. If your child is old enough, taking him or her along with your pet to a class may also help you connect with other pet-loving families. Events or places like these present opportunities for you and your child to connect with others that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you have recently adopted a child, you may want to consider adopting a pet for him or her. Having a pet in the home can benefit your adoptee immensely, as they can really help him or her feel less lonely and isolated, provide them with companionship, and connect with other local pet-loving families in your community so friendships can be made.