Divorce is always hard on those involved. A marriage falling apart is something no-one likes to see. Often though, the party most affected by it are the children. The sudden loss of stability, perception of weakness in their parents who otherwise previously appeared so strong to them and the general confusion at what the future holds can leave children with serious emotional consequences, some of which could last their whole lives.
In those difficult times, children will often look for things to cling on to for comfort. One such comforting presence is a pet. Pets have proven themselves incredibly helpful to children going through any sort of trauma, including divorce.
When everything else around them is stressful and seems to be collapsing, pets can have a massive positive impact on a child as they try and deal with all of the problems that come with a parent’s divorce. Let’s take a look at the ways in which pets can positively influence your child’s experience of divorce.
1. Consistent Love
Though the large majority of parents feel unconditional love for their child, in the stress and turmoil of divorce, children can feel ignored. There’ll be a lot of moments where it will be difficult for an adult going through this tough time to give their child what he or she needs.
“Having a pet, particularly a dog, gives a child a companion who, no matter what is going on around them, will be a constant source of love or at the very least the semblance of love that can imbue their lives with a needed sense of consistency”, says Ira Byrd, lifestyle blogger at LastMinuteWriting and Writinity. Having a pet there will allow a child to feel loved when they are uncertain about the concept itself as they witness their parents’ relationship fall apart.
2. Mental Health Monitor
It’s been proven that animals have the power to reduce stress in human beings. This phenomenon is what has bred the growth and embrace of therapy pets, animals that travel with humans who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.
Even if your child isn’t explicitly affected to that degree, the presence of a pet is therapeutic and can provide positive, soothing emotions for them as they try and cope with the divorce. It’s also a good motivator for exercise, as a lot of pets encourage children to run around. The proven benefits on stress and mood of exercise make this a bonus reason why pets are good for your child’s mental health in this difficult time.
3. Someone They Can Talk To
Even adults will catch themselves talking to their animals, it’s a common part of the owner-pet dynamic. For children, the sense that their pet is actually listening to them is elevated and so it can have an extremely strong effect on them. Children need to talk through things during a divorce and it’s often the case that they will feel unable to discuss anything with either of their parents. On the other hand, a pet will listen to everything in a non-judgemental way. “In a sense, a pet can be a bit like a therapist for a child.
They can absorb everything that the child is thinking about a situation in a non-judgemental, quiet way and not expect anything out of the child in terms of behavior or mood”, writes Myra Mcguire, psychology writer at DraftBeyond and ResearchPapersUK.
4. For Security
One thing that can be really frightening about divorce for children is feeling like they have been abandoned by their parents. Parents might change in their children’s eyes as they go through the divorce process and, with all of the stressful complications that can arise in divorce, parents might find themselves very busy, without much time to attend to their child. Pets help children feel defended and secure, temporarily making up for the lack of security from the parents.
Divorce is never going to be easy on a child and it will always leave a lasting impression. However, having a pet by their side during the process really can help to mitigate some of the hardest parts of enduring this traumatic family event and can help them recover faster after the fact.