Maranda Interviews Therapist Amanda Nowak: Mental Health Benefits of Pets

February 20, 2020

This National Love Your Pet Day, Maranda welcomed Amanda Nowak, LMSW, CAADC from the Pine Rest North Shore Clinic in Spring Lake to discuss the mental health and social development benefits children receive from caring for a pet.

The two reviewed a few of the many benefits, including:

  • Responsibility
  • Trust
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Social skills
  • Enhance communication within the family
  • Decreased stress

Research has shown that interacting with animals help children with stress management, including:

  • Petting an animal has been shown to have a calming effect.
  • Children in high stress environments (hospitals, detention centers, etc) show reduced anxiety in the presence of animals.
  • Animals reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the body.
  • Animals model mindfulness techniques.

Pets also provide many teachable moments when parents can discuss big concepts such as birth, illness, patience, death and grief.

If having a pet is not right for a household, remember that bonding with an animal is more important than owning an animal. Look into other ways children can spend time with an animal such as reading to therapy dogs at the library, programs at a local shelter or find a therapist trained to provide animal-assisted therapy.


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