We all know divorce can be a major life trauma for children of all ages. It can bring up deep-seated insecurity, anxiety and fears while making kids feel lost, alone, or abandoned. Parents who want to ease the process will be gratified to find that pets can be the best medicine, not only for your children but for the entire family as well.
If you already have pets in your family, encourage your kids to spend time with them as a therapeutic asset during these tough times. Children will derive considerable emotional benefit through playtime with their pets. Keeping this warm relationship with pets will serve you as well, both during and after the divorce. So keep the pets your children love in their lives.
Parents who don’t already have a pet may want to consider adopting one. But keep in mind that pets are a big responsibility. Don’t take it on if you can’t give the time, energy and attention to an innocent animal that they deserve. If having a family pet is not feasible for you, try to give your kids time to play with nearby pets in your community. Seek out petting zoos or volunteer work at animal shelters. Contact with warm, furry bodies and other life forms can be a source of joy and comfort, especially at a time when your kids are coping with new schedules and stressful transitions.
About 71 million households in the U.S. have pets. Studies show that pets provide comfort, company, happiness and healing properties for adults as well as children.
There are many benefits of having a pet when your kids are coping with divorce. Here are six:
1. Best Friend: For most children pets are trusted friends they can talk to and share their deepest fears. This is a gift you can give them that will help with emotional resiliency. Pets don’t punish or judge. They give you their attention, listen and seem to “understand.” You can count on their loving and accepting you. Surely, this is just what your kids need and will value at this time.
2. Lasting Love: Pets are a continual source of support and unconditional love for children. At a time when instability and fear is part of a child’s life a beloved pet can be show that affection and love on a daily basis. Even when much is changing in their schedules and environment, kids can count on their furry friend to love them and stay by their side.
3. Well-Being: Pets can enhance feelings of security and well-being for kids during challenging times like divorce. Children feel less alone and abandoned with a pet nearby. The relationship provides peace of mind that is so welcome during challenging times. As children outgrow their stuffed animals, having a connection with a real pet can make a positive difference for them, even when they mature into their teens.
4. Stress Reduction: Medical studies indicate that pets are also quite beneficial for adults. Walking and talking to your dog or petting your cat can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a valuable relief for stress-filled parents. Pets also bring joy and laughter to life, keeping our spirits up and reducing feelings of depression. Laughter is a proven source of healing!
5. Extended Family: During tough periods, the emotional and communication gap between adults and kids grows wider. This is especially so when parents are preoccupied with their own circumstances and decisions. Pets can become a valued part of the family, as well as a source of calm and balance for children, as they transition through the challenges of divorce and its aftermath.
6. Nurturing: Pets are loyal friends who provide nurturing and comfort to both children and adults, especially at a time when the grief of divorce can take hold. They are there for you when you’re alone and an empathic comrade when you want to cry and share your story.
Remembering our connection with other life forms is also helpful in giving us a perspective about our responsibilities toward our self and others. When life can feel overwhelming it is useful to remember there are other beings on this planet who depend on us for love, sustenance and nurturing as well.
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love. For her free ebook, Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right! as well as other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.