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Fuzz Therapy for Divorce Healing

Not that anyone really needs a reminder of how much divorce impacts children, but it does. A lot. Even if you and your spouse have done everything to make the divorce easier on your child, divorce will have an impact on them in some way for some time. Thankfully there are ways to make it less awful, namely something I like to call Fuzz Therapy (as coined by the immortal Calvin and Hobbes cartoon).

Rosalind Sedacca, a Huffington Post regular, recently published an article about the healing relationship animals and humans tend to have, and how that relationship can help children cope with divorce. As if we needed another reason to love animals.

More Reasons to Love Animals

Not that animals can replace parents or human interactions, but animals provide a strange emotional stability for humans, even (or especially?) for small humans. One of the most distressing things for a child during the divorce process is no longer sleeping in the house with both parents. When it was one family in one house, the home was an impenetrable fortress; now that it’s sort-of one family in two houses, the home(s) is(are) vulnerable to intruders and the elements.

In Sedacca’s article, she cited the following 6 benefits an animal provides to a grieving child: Unconditional love, a confidant, security, bridge to adults, stress reduction, and a best friend.

However, these 6 elements can actually be lumped into 3 more succinct elements.

3 Reasons to Bring in Animal Backup

#1: An animal provides unconditional love, which is an umbrella for the best friend and confidant elements of friendship. If you are skeptical of that statement, just observe a child and a person walking a dog interact on the street. The child is drawn to the dog and wants nothing more than to pet it and be bosom buddies; this is because the animals will always love, play, and pay attention to the child (it also helps that the dog can’t tattle on the child).

#2: Pets love routines, pet love seeing their owner come home everyday, and pets love to be pet for hours at a time. At the same time, this enthusiasm for routine and companionship is comforting and healing to people big and small. A pet, and the routine they inadvertently create, shapes the environment into a secure home. Petting an animal is also scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety (more on than later).

#3: We’re not exactly sure what “Bridge to adults” means, but here’s our best crack at it: Divorce wrenches the family structure, thus confusing and worrying the child about the future of their family. Introducing a pet into the family structure might act like glue, binding and bonding the family to something new, in spite of the divorce.

Fuzz Therapy, It’s a Real Thing

Animal therapy has been part of the medical practice for about 150 years, and can be attributed to Florence Nightingale‘s influence. However, in 1980, the medical community thought it was time to make it an official medical practice, with research to back it up.

Humans and animals make each other healthy and happy, as discussed in an NPR segment that aired on March 5, 2013. Heart attack patients who own a pet lived longer than those without a pet. Horse-riding lessons are helping an autistic 9-year-old boy further develop his speech, social, and listening skills. Many hospitals now have animal ambassador programs, like UCLA’s People-Animal Connection (PAC), which has been running since 1994.

The connection formed between animal and owner is healing, comforting, and inspiring. Also, interacting with an animal (like petting an animal) increases oxytocin (the hormone that makes people feel happy, relaxed, and trusting) and reduces stress.

We know owning a dog isn’t always feasible, but even for busy apartment-dwellers, you can always adopt a cat or buy a hamster. In case you were wondering, we’re on the child’s side when they beg, “Please, please, please can we get a pet?!” And we put up a good argument too.

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