There’s no doubt that we love our dogs. From the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Mastif, they provide us unconditional love and joy. But did you know that pets provide valuable social support for kids when they are stressed?
According to a recent University of Florida study, pets offer a stress buffer and an escape. Elizabeth, a 13 year old girl with diagnosed anxiety issues, turns to her dog Cinnamon when she feels that she needs a break. “She makes me feel happy” says Elizabeth. “I forget about what was bothering me and focus on being with my dog”.
That U of F study looked at 100 children between 7 and 12 years old. The kids were asked to perform tasks that typically caused stress and anxiety. Children who had their dogs present at this testing, had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when completing tasks compared to the other group.
The study’s author Darlene Kertes says “having the ability to cope with stress as a child can lead to sound emotional health and well-being as an adult.” Kertes adds: “how we learn to deal with stress as children has lifelong consequences for how we cope as adults.”
Here are some other ways pets can help with stress, anxiety and depression:
- They can offer a sense of calm and relaxation
- They encourage physical activity
- They can encourage socialization
- They offer lots of love.
Getting a pet is a big commitment, and is work. But the benefits may far outweigh the negatives. Especially when it comes to to helping kids manage their stress.