There are benefits to owning a pet for the whole family: especially now

It has been a long year of social distancing and isolation. And while vaccines are distributed and schools reopen, we are still far from “normal”.

None of this has been easy for anyone, but research found children are perhaps the most affected, with children and adolescents likely to experience the highest rates of depression and anxiety after isolation is over. While widely available access to clinical services and extensive early detection methods are essential to identify and treat those most in need of help, there may be one thing parents can do now to help their children. get through the rest of this crisis.

Adopt a pet.

The impact of isolation on children

It is important to understand how much the kids have gained the upper hand over the past year. As parents grapple with job losses, financial hardship, and have to take responsibility for 24/7 education and care for their children, while having to work, the kids have taken the plunge in the stress of it all. In addition to not being able to be with their friends or learn in person from their teachers.

Their entire lives have been turned upside down, in the very stages of life where structure and stability are often most crucial for healthy emotional development.

“The current Covid situation is stressful for everyone”, Leann poston, MD, MBA, licensed pediatrician with Invigorating Medical said recently. “Children suffer from stress due to a lack of schedules, an interruption in their education, an inability to socialize with their friends, worries about their parents and family members and, for older children, to the media’s constant assault on death tolls, conspiracy theories, and politics. “

She said most pediatricians are well aware of the stress that children go through and the harm it could inflict on them. Combined with the increased risk of anxiety disorders and clinical depression, and reduced access to health care, many advocate for ways to help children regain a sense of normalcy.

Young children experience this stress just like their older peers. Dawn Friedman is a private practice counselor in Columbus Ohio with postgraduate certification in Infant and Toddler Mental Health. She is also the voice behind the site You are not your mother.

She said many of her clients voice concerns for their toddlers and preschoolers about critical social development milestones that they may currently be missing.

“Those who meet for long distance social gatherings tell me that their children often run to hug their friends before parents can intervene,” she explained. “They also told me about younger toddlers who cry if people come to them. These moms fear that their little ones will forget how to interact socially with other children. “

She said that while she believes the kids are resilient and able to get through this without suffering long-term issues, she still worries about how difficult it is to return to normal social interaction.

“I think we’ll see a spike in anxiety as we learn to reconnect in late 40s,” Friedman explained.

How pet ownership could help

There is a wealth of research on the benefits of pet ownership for children. The animals were shown to help cultivate better prosocial behaviors in their small owners. They were found to improve behavior and social development of toddlers and preschoolers. A systemic review existing research has found a positive correlation between improving self-esteem and reducing loneliness in children with pets. And the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology has published a list of the benefits of owning a pet for children, including:

  • Develop responsible behavior
  • Teach respect for living things
  • Provide comforting touch, love, loyalty and affection

“The right pet, especially a gentle, loving dog, can be a true friend to children,” Friedman said. “Research shows that animals can develop socio-emotional skills by giving children, even toddlers, the ability to care for and interact with a loving and responsive friend. Especially when parents are busy with work, pets can witness a child’s play, helping to relieve loneliness.

Poston agreed, adding that owning a pet can benefit children of all ages, both physically and emotionally. Not only do children gain physical activity by walking and playing with dogs, she said, “Pets can help young children learn to regulate their emotions and behavior. “

She further added that studies have shown Pet ownership can help reduce stress levels in the adults who care for them, stress that could otherwise spill over to children.

“We naturally speak and interact with the animals in our lives and children are no exception,” Friedman said. “Having someone to cuddle, chat, and deal with during social distancing can make a big difference in our well-being. And if that can’t be another human right now, why not the right pet? “

Things to keep in mind

Pets can bring many benefits to the whole family. But that doesn’t necessarily mean every family should rush out and adopt the first pet they find.

“Pets take time, money and attention,” Poston said. “It is a disservice to a living creature to have a pet to help you meet your needs or those of your family without considering the needs of the animal and your ability to meet those needs. needs.”

While pets can be great stress reducers, they could also increase stress for family members who are not fully prepared to take care of themselves. And their needs will still exist even after the isolation is over.

“There are many different breeds of dogs,” Poston said. “Consider your family situation, your living environment, how long the animal can be unattended, allergies and the needs of any young child before purchasing a pet. “

Friedman agreed.

“The animal has to be the right one for its family,” she said. “I recommend rescues or ethical breeders to pet stores because then the family will have the opportunity to learn about the dog’s personality.”

She explained that most rescues are aimed at socializing dogs in their care and can ward off animals that might not be safe with children or other pets. They can also help you identify the right pet for your needs, and they will remain available to answer questions and provide advice after adoption.

“Our three dogs were rescues and the people who placed them with us made sure they were well adjusted,” Friedman said. “They got to know the dogs well because they were placed in families. So they were able to share the personalities and challenges of the animal. So we were well prepared when they got home.”

The key is to find a suitable pet for the whole family, not just today, but hopefully in the not-so-distant future when life returns to normal as well.

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