Nobody ever says divorce or separation is easy. Nooo sireee.
As all-consuming as it is for adults, for children it is hard in many different ways. That’s why it’s important to help them through in every way we can. And in this case, we’re not talking about support in human form.
For there is nothing more loyal and loving than a household pet.
In a recent study, a group of 5-year-old pet owners were asked what they did when they felt sad, angry, afraid, or when they had a secret to share. More than 40 percent spontaneously mentioned turning to their pets.
Now, I’m not saying you should rush out and purchase a pup, as tempting as this may be. For starters, there are many pets more self-sufficient than a dog. But the benefits are bountiful to a child coping with a family break-up.
Here are five reasons why pets can help your child with divorce:
- Pets are dependable
Children are generally very capable of adapting to change. Yet they don’t always like it. And dealing with lots of change early in life is unsettling. It’s important to have streams of reliability in their worlds. And nothing is more dependable than a loyal family pet. Knowing they can rely on their pet and their patterns of behaviour create an invaluable source of security and dependability.
- Pets will listen
If only we knew what went on in the mind of a child. During a parental break-up, children can feel confused, yet are unable to voice their concerns. They worry they may make things worse, be seen to take sides or even be at fault. Cue the family pet .. who will ‘listen’ without judgement. Whether it’s a dog, cat, tortoise or fish, allowing those words to tumble out is a wonderful (and much needed) release for children.
- Pets love you unconditionally
As children learn the harsh reality of lost love between their parents, they may question the love that others feel for them. The fact that love is not unconditional is scary for a child. A doting household pet could the perfect antidote to this new life lesson. For pets DO love unconditionally. Dogs and cats are particularly loyal. And other smaller pets are never going to make a conscience decision to pack up and move on.
- Pets relieve feelings of loneliness
A family break-up can be a lonely business. Children may feel excluded from the bigger decisions or left to fend for themselves as mum, dad or both are busy with the practicalities of the separation. To have a family pet to play with, talk to, cuddle or simply ‘be with’ is a great way to stave off feelings of loneliness. In fact, they go beyond that, as pets are proven to be mood enhancing too. So forget the red wine mum, just cuddle up with your pooch.
- Pets create routine
One of the most important things we can do to help children during a divorce is to salvage old routines and to start new ones. So whether you already have a family pet, or you are planning to get one, both will work. Pets are sticklers for routine. Whether it’s walkies, cuddle time, food time, or even toilet time, it’s a drill that children will take great comfort in. This is especially helpful if you allow your child a role in caring for their pet. Giving children age-appropriate chores makes them feel like a valued member of their new-style household.
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