Pets: Children’s Saving Grace Both During & After COVID-19

“The researchers found that parents in dog-owning families were 30 percent less likely to report conduct and peer problems with their toddlers in comparison to families that don’t own dogs.”~ Concerned About Your Kid’s Social Development? Getting a Dog Can Help

“Researchers evaluated 643 children for signs of anxiety. They found that only 12 percent of kids who have dogs met the clinical criteria that would prompt health care professionals to further screen for anxiety… Being with dogs can lower levels of cortisol (which is associated with stress), decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and increase levels of oxytocin (which is associated with social bonding).”~ Kids, Dogs and Mental Health: Do dogs prevent anxiety?

“Whether your friend is feathered, furry or scaled, pets can have a significant impact on our lives and our mental health. Studies have shown that having pets leads to a number of mental health benefits, such as decreased anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem and creating a sense of purpose.”~ Pets and Mental Health: How Furry Friends Can Impact Your Child’s Life

The Therapeutic Connection Between Pets, People, & COVID-19

Why do I begin with articles preaching the connection between pets and children’s mental and emotional well-being, you ask? As The Washington Post so bluntly entitled an article, The pandemic will haunt today’s children forever. But we can help them now.

Research has long supported the use of therapy animals, typically dogs, when working with children. From proven benefits in one’s physical health (lowers blood pressure, producing an automatic relaxation response, etc.) to mental health (lessens depression, reduces boredom and loneliness, encourages communication, etc.) to literacy support (increases self-confidence when reading to therapy animals, reduces self-consciousness, etc.), therapy dogs have long been known to play a key role in wellness.

It makes sense that the concern of how our current social-distancing, mask-wearing, obsessive-hand-sanitizing world is affecting children is leading toward a conversation on the power of pets in the household.

There’s a reason that children often shout “recess” or “lunch” when asked for their favorite part of the school day. Children, typically, love to be social. Especially in their younger years, children meet other children and elevate their new acquaintance to the level of best friend status within minutes. Children look forward to social interaction, and they feed off the energy of other children. Without even understanding it, children crave and need socialization.

Enter a Beloved Family Pet

Pets are an opportunity for children to learn responsibility, to exercise empathy and compassion, and are known to be an incredible source of joy and calm. They can be one of the greatest additions you ever make to your world, especially if you have children. But before you choose your monogrammed dog dishes, Lisa Pion-Berlin, president and CEO of Parents Anonymous Inc., encourages you to ask yourself:

  • Do you have the time?
  • What benefits do you see for all your children?
  • Can your family afford the costs (food, medical, etc.) of caring for a pet?

Think it through before adopting a pet and if after that thinking it still feels like the right move for you and/or your family, don’t be afraid to take the leap. Pets that are physically and emotionally cared for often return that care and love to their owners in the form of loyalty and unconditional love, and those are two things that add light to you and your children’s worlds… and adding light can never be overvalued, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach