The Role Of Pets In Depression And Bullying In Kids

  • 07/02/2018
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Pets play a pivotal role in our lives and the lives of our children. Our dogs or cats often greet us at the door, excited to see us and to welcome us home. For kids, having a pet in the family may help them learn responsibility, grow socially, and may even make them smarter.  However, pets—dogs especially—also can be nurturing to a child.

Children who are more reserved or quiet—or who are even outgoing—may choose to confide in their furry friend. Animals, unlike people, won’t give advice, they don’t judge but they will love unconditionally. And if a child is struggling with a problem, is worried or just needs a comfort, a pet may be the best friend.

And some dogs may be more than a friend. A school district in Kansas uses therapy dogs to help those who have been victims of bullying, and the dogs also work to help the bullies. Therapy dogs also are used in many pediatric hospitals to help kids alleviate stress. Often these dogs put a smile on a sick child’s face and become favourite friends.

While dogs can be certified as therapy dogs, even a family pet can be a source of calm for kids.

And any pet can make an impact. Dogs, cats, hamsters…even snakes can be a friend and confidant to your child. When a child is a victim of bullying, parents often deal with teachers and administrators to ensure the situation is handled at the school. However, the problem often doesn’t end after the school bell rings. Any child who has been bullied or taunted at school may suffer emotional repercussions…and the sadness, emotional distress and worry can follow them home. Not all kids handle bullying in the same way. Every child is different. Some kids who are bullied may even develop separation anxiety and become upset when a parent leaves (dogs that have been abused may develop this as well).

Getting kids to open up about their problems and heal from bullying may require a professional therapist or psychologist. But at home, pets can make a comforting difference. Just playing with a pet, snuggling a furry friend or seeing the silly antics of a favourite animal may brighten a child’s day. Not only do animals love unconditionally, but they also do many things to make us laugh or smile!

For families without a pet, some local shelters offer opportunities for kids to get involved or interact with the animals. Some offer programs where kids can read aloud to the dogs, and this can even help boost a child’s reading ability. All reading practice is beneficial, and shelter animals who are awaiting adoption also will likely enjoy the companionship and interaction.

Our pets are often part of the family and one of our best friends. For kids, pets can be an integral part of their ‘pack’ and having a family pet can help a child in many ways. Kids who have suffered from bullying may benefit from the comfort of their pet and the unconditional love a pet provides. While healing from bullying may require a professional therapist or counsellor, the love of a pet can definitely provide additional solace for a child. And every pet can be a child’s best friend and confidante.

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