Do Pets Have a Positive Impact on Families with Only One Child?

The number of single-children families has grown by almost 12% in the last decade and more than half of British families are predicted to have just one child by 2022.

But, talking to the Daily Mail, James Davis, who with his wife decided to stop at one child said: "sometimes I feel there's quite a lot of pressure to get a sibling for your child. People tend to frown on it and some have even told us we are being cruel."

Parents stop at one child for a multitude of personal reasons - but whatever that reason is, for the child it can be incredibly lonely. According to Ann Buchanan, an expert in social work at Oxford University, "the pressure on lone children is greater and this can lead to mental health problems."

So, how do you fill the void left by that sibling they never had? Brothers and sisters form a child's first peer group and they enable them to learn social skills, particularly in managing conflict. When there is no sibling, you need to find alternate ways of ensuring they are socialised - of course this can, in part, come from spending time with other children but have you ever considered a pet taking on the role of sibling?

Ok, so a dog, cat or even hamster isn't a sibling in the traditional sense of the word - but pets are beneficial to any child's life, so just imagine how important that companionship could be for a child who doesn't have a brother or sister to play with.

Aside from being a playmate, pets teach children social skills - by providing them with something to talk to and, dogs in particular, are great icebreakers - you will be surprised how many people you will talk to on a walk simply because you have your four legged family member with you. Who wouldn't want to talk to someone accompanied by one of these french bulldog puppies?

Academic skills can also be taught to your children via pets, because when your little one reads to them they feel more comfortable and relaxed being able to simply read without being told they have made mistakes.

They also teach them responsibility, because they will have to care for them, which means looking out for signs they are hungry, thirsty or need to go outside and subsequently fulfill these needs. Plus, they can become a confidant - where a child may have shared a secret with a sibling rather than their parent, they can do so with their pet instead and know that they will be listened to without judgment and that it won't be passed on - which is the first step towards building trust in relationships.

Still not quite sure a pet can take the place of a sibling? Well, the average cost of raising a child to the age of 21, is £230,000, meanwhile the lifetime cost of a dog (with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years) is £16,000! So, not only do they fill that empty space for the child, they also cost you a lot less money. Plus, pets won't argue with your child in the way a sibling might!

With so many animals always looking for a loving and caring home, why not help them to help your child!

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