Divorce can be one of the most difficult times in anyone’s life — right up there on the stress meter with death. Adults can struggle with the roller-coaster ride of emotions, so imagine how awful it is for children. The parents they love may be fighting, and worse, getting a divorce. They won’t understand. They may even feel deserted and discarded, probably even angry. Their lives are being turned upside down.
As a divorcing parent, you must not get so caught up in your own emotional battles that you forget your children’s needs. Kids who parents are getting divorced feel tugged back and forth, guilty that their loyalties are to both parents, mad that Mom and Dad aren’t perfect. Their world has revolved around you two, and it may feel as if it crashing and burning about them.
In stressful times like these, pets can be anchors for children of divorce. The security and comfort a child feels when they are with their furry best friend is priceless. Encourage the kids to spend time with pets that you have. If you haven’t got a pet, consider getting one, but only if you know that it will be properly taken care of. If having a pet is not a possibility, take the kids to visit relatives or friends who have pets. Take them to a petting zoo. Find another source for the physical contact of a warm and cuddly animal.
Pets give unconditional love and seem happy to spend time with humans. Studies have proven that simple actions like petting, talking to, or walking a dog or cuddling a cat reduces stress. In a time when children can feel abandoned and alone, having a pet can give them a special, protected feeling. They may experience a sense of safety, which allows them to talk freely and openly about what is happening in their lives. They also have a living creature to care for and look after, distracting them from painful thoughts and feelings.
Having a pet at such a critical time can have other positive influences. Symptoms such as aggressive behavior, fears, nightmares, and acting out are less in children of divorce when a pet is part of the family. It’s also an opportunity for adults and children to bond, to heal wounds with the pet as the catalyst. If possible, let the pet transition from home to home with children, providing one thing in their life that is constant — their furry friend is always there when they need them.
Let your pet help ease your child’s isolation, encourage their time together. Let Fido or Fluffy be the faithful friend and sidekick; they are happy to do it.