Pets for ADHD management can be another part of your ADHD comprehensive treatment plan. Especially for kids (but adults as well), pets can provide a number of great benefits. Some benefits can really help you manage ADHD symptoms as well as help develop key skill areas in children.
Most any kid begs their parents for a pet at some point in time. It’s practically a kid’s rite of passage to want a dog. Knowing that pets might provide benefits for ADHD, this sounds like a win-win situation, right? Possibly, but not necessarily.
When considering whether to get pets for ADHD in your home, you really need to weigh the potential benefits against the various things to consider. In this article, we want to break down both for you and give you a chance to consider the pros and cons and various considerations of getting pets for ADHD.
Benefits of Pets for ADHD
Pets can help relieve stress
Many pets can provide something of a stress relief. For instance, a study performed by the CDC found that children with pets had overall lower stress levels than children without pets. This helps explain why pets are often used as therapeutic relief for individuals working through a physical or emotional crisis.
Many families that work to manage ADHD deal with stress constantly as a byproduct. ADHD and stress follow after one another in many ways. For instance, stress can originate from your child’s hyperactive outbursts or disobedience or struggles in school. No matter the origin, these things can weigh on both you as the parent and on your child. Sometimes, we find ourselves so overwhelmed by our own anxiety that we forget that our children also experience stress.
Pets for ADHD can help alleviate stress in parents, in kids, and in the overall family dynamic. Animals relieve stress by providing a companion that doesn’t judge or condemn. Pets just want to be present which can provide comfort when everything around you feels chaotic and out of sorts.
If you are looking for a stress release and positive outlet, consider pets for ADHD as one possible option. You need to release stress before it simmers over into destructive outlets. The same applies to your child. If not pets, be sure to look into other ways to disperse and relieve stress.
Pets can help teach responsibility
Caring for a pet provides significant responsibilities. Pets need to be fed and cleaned up after. Depending on the type of animal, they most likely need to be taken for some exercise on a regular basis. Furthermore, they need to be taught how and where to use the restroom and how to behave around people and other animals. In short, pets demand a lot of responsibility and attention.
Children with ADHD need boundaries, rules, and routine in their lives to help them thrive. Fortunately, pets for ADHD can help provide all of these things especially routine. A well-implemented ADHD daily routine helps kids focus better and improves ADHD management.
Pets can help form structure within a regular routine if done correctly. To make a pet work for you with ADHD management, though, you need to make sure your child understands their role and responsibility. Before getting a pet, discuss with your child what it will take to care for an animal on a daily basis.
Give them the outline of the routine: feeding and taking out in the morning, walking after school, feeding and taking out in the evening, cleaning their cage or kennel once a week, picking up their feces, and cleaning up after them. Make sure your child knows this is no laughing matter. Take the discussion of responsibility very seriously.
A good approach might even be to have your child sign a contract for what they will do when the pet arrives. Just remember you must hold to the terms of the contract for it to have any effect.
When your pet arrives, make sure that your child holds up their end of the bargain. If they fall behind, don’t let them get away with it. Holding them accountable helps to teach them responsibility and structure.
Pets can help release energy and provide exercise
Some pets, especially dogs, love nothing more than to play constantly and get energy out. Pets can provide a great positive opportunity for your child with ADHD to both release energy and get exercise. In fact, studies have shown this to be true that kids with pets simply move and play more.
As parents with kids with ADHD, you often probably feel at a loss for trying to keep up with them. Pets for ADHD, though, can help your child play as well as find constructive avenues to get energy out.
Pets, dogs especially, typically want to play more than even your kids. Get a pet, let your kids play with it outside and everyone will enjoy themselves and come back ready to settle back down. Remember also that not only does this provide a release of energy but it also can provide an avenue for exercise.
Studies have shown us time and again that physical activity improves ADHD. As a result, exercise should be encouraged in your ADHD child for 30-60 minutes a day. With a pet such as a dog, your child could help walk it for 15-30 mins and then play with it by running or throwing a ball in the back yard for another 15-30 mins. Such exercise will help improve focus when it comes time for homework and study and help calm hyperactive tendencies.
Pets can provide companionship
Individuals with ADHD, especially kids, many times have a difficult time adjusting to social situations and environments. Being a kid with ADHD can often be lonely and confusing. Sometimes, children with ADHD feel as though they speak a different language from everyone else.
The great thing about a pet is that a pet is always understanding. When your child has a bad day at school and everything seems to go wrong, the pet never scolds or chastises them, rather it always welcomes them home.
Pets provide solace and understanding. Kids with ADHD feel like everyone else talks another language. The same goes for pets. They have to show affection and response through other means than language, which a child with ADHD understands on a deep level. With a pet, your child gets interaction and most likely won’t feel weird, awkward, or alone anymore.
Additionally, not only can pets provide your child direct companionship, they also can help your child connect with others. Pets might be described in a way as the universal connection point. Humans understand the draw and attraction of a pet and pet owners instantly have something to connect and socialize over when they meet one another.
Things to Consider Before Getting Pets for ADHD
Consider personalities before committing to a pet
Like many things we might recommend, we unfortunately cannot provide a one quick fix for everything, including which pet would be best for your family. Much of picking and deciding on the right pet depends on the personalities of its owners and potential family. If you plan on getting a pet for your ADHD child, consider his or her personality first.
Would your child like something to watch more than actually hold or cuddle with? If so, you might consider trying an aquarium of active colorful fish. Would your child like an animal that talks or sings and flies but they can’t run around with? In this case, you might look at a bird that they can care for.
To really get a good idea of what your child might prefer, ask them questions about what kinds of animals they like. For choosing the right pet, consider the different traits of possible pets. Ask questions that get to which traits line up well to make the right choice for you.
If you have a friend that has the pet you think they might like, ask if you and your child could watch the pet for a few days to give you a feel for what it might be like. Each different kind of pet can provide different benefits, so don’t shy away from something because you don’t see an initial benefit. Consider first the personalities and preferences in play before deciding anything.
Consider the significance of pets for ADHD before adopting or buying a pet
Adopting and bringing a pet into your home can be a big commitment, especially for a young child. Before jumping into the adventure of pet ownership, you really need to consider the significance of owning an animal. Not only do you, as the parent, need to understand this, your child needs to as well.
Before going to adopt a pet, talk to your child and make sure they understand that a pet lives and breathes and can’t be ignored. Many children live much of their lives responding to their own emotions and how they feel. This is no less true for ADHD children.
With a pet, however, your child has to respond not based solely on how they feel but also what is in the best interest for the pet’s care. You need to make sure your child grasps these large concepts. A pet can’t be abandoned or neglected or abused. They must be cared for, fed, taken out and socialized, and treated with care and respect.
If your child struggles to understand some of these ideas, wait to adopt an animal. Instead work on trying to implement strategies that will help improve responsibility in your children like the tips found at this link.
One strategy might be to try to give your child small amounts of responsibility and slowly increase the significance of what you have them do. For instance, you might give them a plant to take care of for a set amount of time, and then move up to an ant farm or a goldfish. If your child simply loses interest and ignores the project after a while, they most likely aren’t ready for caring for an animal. If they take care and pride in their project, you might consider adopting an animal after a while.
Consider whether or not your home and child are ready for a pet
Both you and your child may want a pet more than anything in the world. What you really need to sit down and consider, though, first should be whether your child and home are ready for a pet. Consider some of the factors that might go into preparing your home for a pet such as the items at this link.
As we’ve mentioned already, pets are a big commitment. You need to consider do you really have the time and energy for a pet. Can you provide the home the pet needs?
Additionally, other things to think amount might be space and atmosphere. If you live in a smaller two bedroom apartment without a park or open space nearby, you most likely do not want to consider getting a large breed dog with lots of energy. Similarly, if your neighborhood or neighbors specifically might not be too happy about cats wandering about, you might consider a pet that would be sure to stay close to home.
Furthermore, think about your schedules and how much and when you can and will be at home with your pet. You don’t want to get a pet to just have it stay alone in a dark room all day while you only see it to feed it twice a day. This situation provides no benefit to anyone, least of all the pet.
Before committing to pets for ADHD, just be sure you have the right home environment to accept a pet. If your home is chaotic with kids and lots of people coming and going, you might want to steer clear of smaller animals that might be lost or let out by accident. Just consider all the possibilities of your home environment before settling on the right pet for your situation.
Committing to Pets for ADHD if it’s the Right Solution for Your Family
If you have gone through this article and weighed the pros and cons and have decided that a pet might be right for your home, then we are glad we have been able to help. Now, you just need to be certain that you and your child really want to commit to a pet and which one. Take some time considering which type of pet and which pet specifically you want to bring into your home. If everything seems to line up and it looks to be the right solution, commit to the pet and you will hopefully soon see the benefits.
Pets for ADHD can provide many positives for ADHD management. Just don’t expect your pet to help solve every issue you face with your child. Resolve yourself to be realistic about the pet’s potential impact on your home.
Keep in mind that other factors impact ADHD, as well. Use the tips and tools you have found here to help decide on your choice for pets, but keep acquiring more information to better improve your overall approach to ADHD management.