Our dog, Duke, has been so depressed this week! He’s a loveable yellow lab who is always willing to run with the kids, chase a ball, or go for a long walk by the river. Not this week. He lays on the couch (not by my choice), mopes to his bowl for his breakfast, and then returns to the couch. Why is this week different? School has started and he is missing our daughter. He misses her so much that he sleeps in her room every night (not something he normally does) and he jumps in the car with her every morning to take her to school.
As a clinical social worker, I often think clinically about children and families. Duke has allowed me to see the world through his eyes this week. He is just flat sad that part of his family is leaving every day for a huge chunk of time. He is feeling his feelings! As the school year gets started, many parents are thankful for the reprieve and break from hanging with their children all day. I decided we can learn a lot from animals. Here are just a few of the things I have learned:
They Don't Yell
Pets do not yell. Sure they show emotion, but it's often less scary than what we humans evoke. I often tell parents, when your child is in the middle of an emotional crisis, the best thing you can do is use less words and show less emotions. Animals do just that.
They Feel Their Feelings
Animals feel their feelings when they are having them and do not lock them away. Just as Duke mopes around this week, he has given me permission to mope around too and feel the emptiness of the house and the sadness that school has started.
Pets Teach Us Forgiveness
Pets are the ultimate forgivers. They do not hold any grudges. As humans, we can spend all day thinking of what our loved ones have done to make us angry. Yes, animals have a memory, but really, they want their humans to love them and we usually forgive them pretty quickly. We just need to apply that same rule to our loved ones.
They Keep it all in Perspective
Animals are happy to see you, no matter what has happened during the day. All animals want is love and attention.
The Importance of Calm
Usually, a pet with a calmer heart rate than you, can help you calm the heart rate of your child. What does that mean as a parent? When we get all worked up and angry, our heart rate increases. Our children feel that because they are connected to us in that way. If our heart rate goes up, theirs goes up. If there is a pet in the room who has a lower heart rate and is calmer than us, this can help diffuse the situation.
They Practice the Golden Rule...
Animals do not use words. This means they do not use words to continue arguing, to say hurtful things, or to totally lose it on their loved ones. Sometimes silence really is the best medicine.
They Know How to Express Love
The love from an animal is pure. There really are very little strings attached when an animal falls in love with us. Sure, they need shelter and food, but after that all they want is love in return and they are forgiving when we do not always get this right.
What have you learned from your pets?
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Are you sick and tired of feeling - and looking - sick and tired? Maybe it's time to challenge the calendar instead of falling victim to it.