Guest Post By Scott Riddler
When it comes the pervasive bullying problem, the negative consequences impact not only the victim, but also the bully and those who witness the anti-social behavior.
Children who are bullied can experience depression, anxiety, a decline in academic performance, and mental health issues. Kids who themselves are the bullies, meanwhile, are more likely to use alcohol and drugs in their teen years and as adults, to participate in early sexual activity, and get into fights. And those who witness acts of bullying — the bystanders — are more likely to miss or skip school as well as to use alcohol and drugs.
While all parties suffer to some extent, it can be argued that kids who are bullied get the worst of it. And unfortunately, Michigan tops a list ranking the worst states for bullying as close to 19% of students in Michigan high schools, for instance, report that they have been bullied online.
Anti-bullying policies and public awareness campaigns can help to combat the problem. Another way, though, is through the use of pets that can help children who experience depression due to bullying. You obviously shouldn’t buy a pet unless you can properly care for it and plan to be a responsible pet owner, but the rewards for children can be immense if you go this route.
Read on for a look at the role of pets in depression and bullying in kids. You’ll find that dogs, and other animals for that matter, can be a kid’s best friend and a companion through difficult times.
Pets Get You Outdoors
If your child walks the family dog some or all of the time, he or she will benefit from some healthy outdoor time that will be beneficial from a mental health perspective. Exposure to the sun’s rays and fresh air can improve your child’s mood and give him or her a generous dose of vitamin D. It should be noted that vitamin D can help with dealing with depression, obesity, and other potential problems. While your child can find other reasons to get outdoors, playing with or walking a dog outdoors could provide more incentive for activity that will combat depression.
Pets Can Reduce Stress
The act of petting or grooming is not only soothing for a cat or dog, but also beneficial to the person doing it. When your child pets his dog, cat, and even hamster or gerbil, a hormone responsible for the lifting of stress and anxiety is released. You can see how your child, if experiencing bullying and depression, can find comfort in having a pet to interact with.
Pets can play a role in helping bullied children who struggle with depression. It’s important, however, that you select the right animal for your child. For instance, some dogs are better with children than others are. Whether in terms of size, activity level, or temperament, you should make certain to select the right dog for your child and family.
There are 180+ recognized dog breeds, so there are lots to choose from. But all the effort to find the perfect four-legged addition to your family will be worth it when you see for yourself just how good pets are for children, bullied or otherwise, who have mental health challenges.
Pets Can Prevent Allergy-Causing Depression
It’s been proven that children who grow up in a home with pets are less prone to coming down with common allergies. How does this relate to depression? People with allergies can experience things like lethargy and have trouble sleeping, which can increase their odds of experiencing mental health problems like depression. So, getting a dog or cat can safeguard your child’s physical health and reduce the odds of experiencing depression.
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*Photos courtesy of Scott Reddler