The Role of Pets in Depression and Bullying in Kids

Another great guest post from Emily Ridgewell!

Both Emily’s previous guest posts were received very well by you. There was Four-legged Gardening, published here last October 24th, and Return To The Movies that came out on the 4th of that same month.

Now Emily writes about something that is never far away from us these days, irrespective of age: depression. And the strongly positive role of pets. Great guest post but first let me re-introduce you to Emily.

Emily Ridgewell is an arts professional and a pet enthusiast from sunny LA. Emily has a creative energy and an aesthetic sense of living, where everything beautiful is worth sharing. She loves her yorkie Olivia and writes original and fun articles on ways to learn and improve your pet-best friend’s life. She finds exciting new things to explore and experience! Don’t forget to connect with her on Twitter: @ridgewell_j

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The Role of Pets in Depression and Bullying in Kids

Kids today are faced with more stress and worry than ever, and childhood depression is on the rise because of it. Recent studies have shown almost 10% of children and adolescents experience depression. One of the main sources of depression among children is being the victim of bullying. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t discriminate and can happen to boys and girls of any ethnic, racial, religious, or socio-economic background. Lasting effects of being bullied include having low self-esteem and negative self-image, unhappiness at school and difficulty focusing, and trouble establishing healthy relationships with peers.

Interestingly enough, these side effects are found in the bullies as well as their victims. Both are more likely to experience depressive symptoms than those who have never been involved in bullying. They also are more likely to have coexisting mental health issues, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Clinical Depression and Anxiety. If left unaddressed, these feeling of depression and low self-worth can lead to chronic levels of mental health issues, isolation, and even suicidal ideation.

The first line of defense for parents is arming themselves with strategies to help their children cope with feelings of depression and address them when they first appear. First and foremost, they need to recognize the signs of depression. Then they need to put their heads together and come up with a plan to help their child combat it. Use resources such as your pediatrician, teachers, and school counselors to help develop a long term plan. In the meantime, one of the most effective and immediate ways to help them at home is by getting a pet.

Pets have several benefits that help combat depression and help your child feel happier, more whole, and well connected. First of all, they offer uncomplicated, unconditional love. They don’t say hurtful things, get angry over petty misunderstandings, or hold grudges. They simply love and express joy every time they see their owners. They also offer constant companionship. Having a pet means never having to feel alone or isolated. Additionally, the act of petting a dog or cat (or any other pet, for that matter) offers physical touch and provides comfort, creating a soothing effect and releasing feel-good endorphins in the brain. In turn, this reduces stress and anxiety and helps your child feel calmer and more emotionally balanced.

Further, having a pet means your child will have an added responsibility. Contrary to what you may originally think, a new responsibility provides a distraction and offers a positive focus instead of what’s bothering him.. Plus, he’ll feel good about himself for taking care of something that needs him. He will feel capable, and this bolsters self-esteem and causes a ripple effect in all aspects of her life. It’s a win-win situation.

If you opt for a dog, part of the responsibilities will be walking it. This earns another point in the fight against depression for a couple of reasons. It will make your child be physically active, a well-known tool for negating depressive symptoms. It also is an excellent way to increase social interaction. People are always wanting to touch a puppy, and this leads to a natural conversation when they ask permission. Even if your child is anxious about talking to new people, dogs and pets are automatic ice breakers. Talking about their pet can easily guide the conversation with very little pressure on your child to generate small talk. If they are engaging in conversation, they are less likely to feel isolated and will benefit mentally from the interaction.

Of course, pet ownership isn’t something you should jump into lightly. Be sure to choose the right pet for your child and teach him the right way to handle and care for it. With care and supervision, your child and her pet will become fast friends in no time. While there is no quick fix for depression, owning a pet has multiple benefits which will show their impact quickly. Having an unconditional friend to love can work wonders for building confidence and self-esteem and combatting the negative effects of bullying and depression.

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Emily is spot on. Pets, especially dogs, are the epitome of loving us humans unconditionally and that connection is precious beyond words. Being able to hug or cuddle a dog, frequently as an ad-hoc impulse, is about as comforting a place that us humans, well certainly this human, can get.

Sitting in front of the television of an evening and having a cat snuggle up next to one and start purring is a very close second-best!

Great post from Emily!

28 thoughts on “The Role of Pets in Depression and Bullying in Kids

    1. Even if they do wake one up around 3am because they have an upset tummy around! As happened earlier this morning with Cleo who needed to be let out! Seriously, you are spot on, Irene. Thank you!

      1. Precisely! Dear, sweet Cleo has this knack of waking me, never Jeannie by the way, in a fashion that immediately tells me she needs to be let out. I open the bedroom door to the deck, Cleo slips outside, and by the time I have finished in the bathroom, Cleo is waiting on the deck wanting to come back in.

        A whole lot better, as you say, than the alternative!

  1. I love this. It’s very true. I noticed an immediate change in my daughter’s ability to handle the social issues going on in her extremely clique-y class when we adopted Callie.

  2. I totally agree! Even just the act of petting an animal can lower heart rate and blood pressure. I personally can’t adopt a dog because of my housing arrangement, but I feel that one of my closest pals is my sisters dog. So even if you can’t necessarily take care of an animal because of your current situation, you can still have a close bond with someone else’s pet. Great post!

    1. First, I must say “Hi” and offer you a very warm welcome to this place. Good to meet you! Totally agree with you about having great bonds with dogs that are part of someone else’s home. Thank you for your interesting response and hope to see more of you!

  3. Great post! I couldn’t agree more and as someone working in the mental health field I can attest that pets help a ton. My own pets are therapy for me everyday when I go home and they are the reason I started blogging.

    1. Lindsay, let me offer you a very warm welcome to this place and thank you for calling by and leaving your response. Our pets are so, so valuable to us; without any doubt!

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