School House Magazine
These independent schools know the true value of having a pet to care for, giving the pupils a deserved break from their studies.
In fact, recent research has proved that pets provide a powerful support network, particularly for those experiencing mental health problems. The University of Liverpool reviewed evidence from 17 international research English language papers, with a large majority of 15 reporting positive aspects of pet ownership.
Reoccurring reasons included the fact that caring for a pet alleviates worry, provides comfort and mitigates against feelings of isolation and loneliness. Homesickness at boarding, then, may be kept at bay with a session grooming the ponies at Hanford, for example.
Other than this emotional work, cute and characterful pets are a great physical distraction from negative thoughts and feelings. From birds to guinea pigs, the unpredictability of animals’ movements and behaviour provide never-ending stimulation for curious minds in need of a break from worrisome homework or friendship issues.
Pets also provide a good topic for discussion, and for anyone with social anxiety this is a welcome balm for frazzled nerves. Talking to the animals themselves is just as therapeutic in these situations. Ears pricked and snuffling away, animals have their own way of showing that they’re listening and unconditionally care about what you’re saying – or so we like to imagine.
As well as developing a sense of responsibility in children, looking after animals boosts self-worth, as they get to know their pet and enjoy nurturing them.
The study, as any comprehensive science project should, did raise some negative aspects of living alongside a furry friend, these being the financial costs, the guilt people felt for not being able to manage them successfully and the animals being barriers to travel. Of course school pets come with none of these down sides for the children – giving them all the good bits, with only a bit of poo picking or dog walking to go with it.
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