By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Pets can be a helpful resource for you and your children when handling the challenges of divorce. If your family has one or more pets, let your children have access to them as much as they desire. Pets can provide great emotional benefits to kids during times of insecurity. Your children are fortunate that the pets they love can still be in their lives.
Don’t hurt your children or your pet by discarding or giving the pet away during the divorce process and its aftermath.
If you don’t already have a pet, I recommend getting one. However, that’s only if you are in a position to be responsible to that innocent animal during this time of additional stress in your life.
If a family pet is out of the question, please consider giving your children time to play with the pets of friends and family. Take them to petting zoos. Allow them contact with other living creatures, such as watching or feeding birds and squirrels in the park. These critters can give them joy and help them focus on something other than the sadness in their lives.
In the United States alone, close to 65%, or about 71 million households have pets. Statistics from the National Pet Owners Survey say 39% of these households own at least one dog and 34% one or more cats. This should come as no surprise since pets can be a blessing in the life of any human being at any age.
Here are six key benefits a pet provides for families coping with divorce:
1. Unconditional Love.
It has been proven again and again that pets are a source of support and unconditional love for children. This is especially evident during and after divorce, illness and other life challenges. When there is so much instability and insecurity in a child’s life, a beloved pet can be the bridge to sanity. While much around them may be changing, sweet Fluffy is still there to love them and be by their side.
2. A confidant
Children like to talk to their pets. For most children, pets are trusted friends in whom they can confide and share their deepest fears. This is truly a gift to children and greatly helps with emotional resiliency. Pets are nonjudgmental. They listen attentively. They “understand.” And they always love you back. Isn’t that what your children need at a time like this?
Pets have been shown to help children better cope with challenging times within a family. Kids with pets feel less alone and abandoned. The relationship with the pet provides a deep sense of security that can’t easily be duplicated. In early childhood a stuffed animal often serves much the same purpose. Most kids rarely outgrow their bond with a living Fluffy, even when they mature into their teens.
4. Parent-child Bridge.
Pets can bridge the emotional and communication gap between adults and children. This is especially important when both parents are preoccupied with so many other time-consuming details during difficult times. Pets are a valued part of the family. Everyone can agree on their need for care and love. They become a source of calm as the family moves through the drama and life transitions that come with divorce.
5. Stress Reduction.
Medical studies have shown that pets are just as beneficial for adults. Walking and talking to your dog or petting your cat can actually lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also reduces overall stress. For most people pets are a great source of laughter, joy and comfort. The fur balls are a reminder that there are other facets of life that are still wonderful to experience.
6. Best Friend.
Pets additionally provide unconditional love, nurturing and comfort to both children and adults. This is especially welcome as you cope with unexpected challenges. Or as you move through tension, anxiety and grief. They’re a best friend when you’re alone and an appreciative ear when you want to vent or shed tears.
In so many ways connecting to other life forms is a valuable resource during tough times. It can be a catalyst for getting a new perspective about our place in the universe and our responsibilities toward others. When life feels like it’s crashing in around us it is valuable to remember we share this planet with other beings. Pets depend on us for love, sustenance and nurturing. In return, they can be a gift to everyone in the family at a time when we need them most.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you can’t be a responsible pet parent at this time, do not be a pet caretaker. Reach out to a shelter or rescue group if you have concerns about the wellbeing of your pet.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, her coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.