Episode 16 | The Importance of Pets for Kids in Non-Traditional Families

Today I’m going to talk about pets in solo-by-choice, divorced, widowed, and blended family homes. These are pets in homes where stability is desperately needed, and where friendship and companionship are most welcome. Today is all about the animals who make our homes feel like home. Today I have, in studio with me, the little rock in our world who has been there through thick and thin – the one who gives us comfort when we’re sad – the one and only, Munchie Herman.

In this episode, we talk about…

[1:04] Joly’s search for a pet after becoming a single parent

When I became a single parent, I had two suitcases and a kid. I had to start a life in a new city, and I knew right away that I wanted to rent a place that allowed for pets. When I did find a place, I began looking in earnest. My daughter was three at the time, and I didn’t advertise the idea that I was in the market for a pet. I wanted it to be the right pet at the right time.

I began looking on the Petfinder sites, and searching for dogs in the animal shelters. It was like an online dating site, browsing the sometimes vague descriptions of a pet’s personality. “He’s a high energy friend who needs a lot of attention”.  “She’ll take a little time to warm up to you, but once she does…”.

So, one day I buckled my daughter into the car and drove all the way out to a high kill shelter in Los Angeles. What could go wrong? The shelter didn’t try too hard to hide the fact that it was a high kill shelter. The barracks looked like something out of a World War II nightmare, and the dogs were not happy. My little girl, who has always been an animal lover, wanted to get close to them and pet them. There was no way that was going to happen, so after a few minutes we made our way out of the shelter.

As we were leaving, we heard a voice floating out of a window: “Excuse me, over here.”  We walked into a building that could best be described as a hut with cages in it. They asked us if we would like to meet the sweetest cat, and of course we did. She was so sweet, and we decided to adopt her and bring her home after we were vetted and she got spayed. My daughter decided to name her Sweetie. Sweetie didn’t love being pulled around by the tail when I wasn’t looking, and she ended up being a bit salty.

I didn’t give up hope, but I also didn’t think that rushing into something was the best idea. I knew the universe had a different plan. One day, we walked into the local pet store to get a fish for my daughter’s Montessori classroom. They had a big group of dogs up for adoption, and one was a seven-year-old black and tan dog named Munchie. He climbed into my daughter’s lap, and he became part of our family.

[3:45] Why having a pet is important to the divorced, widowed, solo-by-choice, or blended family

Pets are a constant, and pets are therapeutic. They have been shown to lower blood pressure by reducing anxiety and stress. They lessen physical pain just by being around. They reduce fatigue because they want to get outside, and they lift spirits and lessen depression because they have so much love for you. They increase the body’s level of oxytocin, improving empathy and allowing you to have a happier life.

Pets can even improve self-esteem because they provide unconditional love. They are family without baggage, and they are there for kids in ways that are incredibly soothing. Munchie is my daughter’s close companion, and he also gets me outside for walks when I feel alone. He makes me feel protected.

I would have Munchie chime in here about how important being part of a forever family is, but he can’t talk. He can sing, though! If you tune in again, you might just hear Munchie’s pipes.

Pets are therapeutic for the whole family – especially the non-traditional family!

Will you let us know on Instagram about the animals in your home?  Share how they have made a difference in your family or made your family feel whole.  I can’t wait to hear all about them!

Website: soloparentmag.com

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About author

Joly Herman

Editor-In Chief, Founder, and CEO of Solo Parent Magazine, Joly Herman is a writer and educator, who has been writing professionally for print and web publications since 1998. She was among the first television review editors at Common Sense Media, where she also served as a movie, DVD and book reviewer from 2004 to 2014. Having earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, Joly was a recipient of the Rackham Fellowship and taught undergraduate Creative Writing. She is a Montessori Primary Teacher who has headed classrooms in San Francisco, Kansas City, Berlin and Düsseldorf, Germany. An advocate for healthy children and healthy families, Joly founded Solo Parent, LLC in 2014 to promote the vision that all families be viewed as normal, that all families be seen as whole.

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