Your Kids and Dogs Are Stressed, Too. Here’s How You Can Help.

Don't be fooled by the cape. Deep down, this guy is masking his stress.EXPAND
Don't be fooled by the cape. Deep down, this guy is masking his stress.
Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
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With Dallas' shelter-in-place order in full effect, dogs truly are man's best friend. While most dogs are used to their owners going to work for about eight hours per day, now they're finding themselves bombarded with attention, and several walks a day.

Of course, the abundance of newly shared time with your dog is nice, but once this is all over, your pet might develop separation anxiety. Going from being with you 24/7 to getting used to you working a full day again is going to be an adjustment.

"That's stressful to the dog," says Scott Sheaffer, a dog behavior consultant. "That's a big change. And dogs are like people. We don't like big changes. We like nice, slow changes or no change at all."

Instead of having your dog hang by you every second while you work from home, it might be best to separate yourself for a few hours, Sheaffer says. Put your dogs in a crate for a few hours or leave them in the backyard, or go on a walk without them. Providing isolation for the dog will help ensure that when you return to work, it won't be as stressful.

Sheaffer also says that since dogs don't understand the six-feet social distancing rule, when you're walking your dog, you shouldn't get close to other dogs, because your dog will want to greet them and won't understand why they can't. Stay much farther away than the required six feet.

Sheaffer says if you're thinking about adopting a puppy or a full-grown dog to fill a void right now, you should be sure to consider how you'll be able to care for the pet in the future.

"I'm really afraid people are picking up dogs right now who haven't thought through the long term of it," Sheaffer says. "They're going to go back to work and will this still work when they go back?"

Dogs are still the easiest part for families dealing with the new coronavirus way of life. For parents finding themselves at home full time with their kids, there is some good news: Elizabeth Scrivner, therapist at Park Cities Counseling, says it's not likely children and teens will develop separation anxiety once this is all over (mainly because they'll be happy to be reunited with their friends), but it's important to keep the stress level to a minimum.

"The biggest thing is a schedule, number one," she says, "and second is humor, because truly laughing and having fun, and I think every family is different, but it is so essential to bring humor."

Scrivner says sometimes homework for a first grader isn't as important as just getting through the day.

"The actual assignment of a 7-year-old maybe isn't as important as trashing the assignment and playing Chutes and Ladders or going outside and shooting a ball or doing a LEGO set," Scrivner says.

On Twitter, former Texas Ranger Michael Young shared a similar sentiment that he received from one of his son's teachers.

"Don't worry about them regressing in school," the note reads. It goes on to say that when kids return to school, teachers will "meet them where they are."

"... at the end of all of this, your kids' mental health will be more important than their academic skills. And how they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those 4 or more weeks is long gone. So keep that in mind every single day."

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