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Parent Trap: Why Dogs Are a Kid’s Best Friend

In this time filled with uncertainty, fear and disconnection, one ray of hope for many kids is their dog. Dogs wear many hats: friend, confidant, a listening ear and protector. And they bring hope and a sense of constancy as well.

There have been very few points in my life when I didn’t own a dog. I know from experience that during these turbulent times, pets can make all the difference in the world for kids. I vividly remember my childhood dog Clancy being there for me. When things weren’t great in my house, I’d get on my bike and ride to some nearby woods and walk the trails with him at my side. If none of my friends were outside to play with, I’d play with him. I was devastated when my family gave him up when I went off to college because my sisters couldn’t take care of him.

There are far too many kids and teens who feel like there is no one there for them. They may have distracted or absent parents or friends they don’t trust with their secrets. Kids can sense when their parents are stressed out by worries about COVID, finances and the future. They may feel they can’t share their own worries and hurts because their parents already have more than enough on their plates. Fortunately, many of them do have a pet they can confide in.

Kids often turn to their dogs to share their hurts, frustrations and fears because dogs listen, don’t judge and love them unconditionally. Look how calm and happy the two campers look in the photo with Buddy, my current dog. A loving pet like Buddy can give kids hope that they can be seen, heard, understood and loved.

I am so grateful that Buddy can sit on the couch with girls in my counseling practice, and in circles with girls at my weekend retreats, summer camps and in schools. He is beloved by all who meet him. He is for sure a beacon of love and hope for so many.

Tim Jordan, M.D., is a behavioral pediatrician who works with girls in grade school through college. Check out his new online course, Parenting girls: The challenges girls face today with their feelings and friends and what they need, at drtimjordan.com.