How Your Kids Can Find Emotional Support From a Comfort Animal

Jun 3, 2024 | Education

Pets of various shapes and sizes play a vital role for children, particularly those dealing with psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression. For these children, their pet can become an emotional support animal, providing daily relief from their challenges. An ESA, which can be a dog, cat, or other types of pets, helps to ease symptoms of emotional or mental issues through companionship and affection. Also known as assistance animals, ESAs have significantly enhanced the lives of many individuals.

Significance of ESA

Emotional support animals, commonly dogs or cats, are known for providing comfort and companionship to individuals dealing with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Although these animals are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and do not have the same legal protections, they are safeguarded by the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This law ensures that people with mental health issues can keep their emotional support animals in housing that normally does not allow pets. Wellness Wag offers emotional support animal letters for individuals seeking to qualify their pets as ESAs.

Different Types of Service Animals

There are three types of service animals, each serving different needs:

  • Service animals (SA): These animals are trained to assist individuals with medical disabilities by performing tasks such as stabilizing someone who has difficulty walking or detecting seizures in people with epilepsy.
  • Emotional support animals (ESA): Unlike other service animals, these animals are not trained for specific tasks but offer therapeutic benefits through their presence and companionship.
  • Psychiatric service animals (PSA): These animals help individuals with psychiatric conditions by performing specific tasks, like reminding their handlers to take antidepressant medication.

Benefits of Emotional Support Animals for Children

Caring for an animal, in general, can provide a sense of responsibility and improve self-esteem. For children with emotional or mental challenges, ESA’s offer additional benefits such as:

Emotional Development

A pet can promote emotional development by nurturing empathy and compassion while also supporting emotional regulation. Having a pet can teach children from a young age to read body language and other nonverbal cues, helping them understand and respond to others’ emotions. Children can learn when a pet wants attention, how best to interact with it, and how these approaches vary among different animals.

These skills gained from interacting with pets can also help children navigate human relationships. While adults guide this learning, it equips children with the tools to emotionally engage with others, contributing to their small yet significant emotional growth.

Moreover, pets can assist with emotional regulation. Studies have shown that rhythmically petting a dog, cat, or other animal can reduce stress and anxiety and help regulate heart rate. If a child feels overwhelmed, having them slowly pet their animal companion can help them manage their emotions.

Enhances Social Engagement

Socializing enhances happiness for people of all ages. Owning a dog creates additional opportunities to connect with neighbors and friends. For example, taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood often leads to spontaneous chats with others.

You can also visit the park with your kids and meet old friends or new ones. Since dogs are often a popular subject of conversation, having one makes it easier to start discussions with both familiar faces and new acquaintances.

Enable Children With Autism to Thrive

Children with autism who own pets are more likely to exhibit enhanced social skills compared to those without pets. Studies have revealed that children with autism who have emotional support animals (ESAs) are more inclined to introduce themselves, seek information, and respond to questions, abilities that are typically challenging for them. ESAs have been shown to improve assertiveness, responsibility, cooperation, self-control, and social interaction in these children.

Mitigate the Impact of Trauma

When a child encounters trauma, whether due to abuse, witnessing violence, they often replay parts of the incident in their mind. They dwell on the events leading up to the trauma, believing that close attention can prevent future occurrences, which results in significant fear and anxiety.

Research suggests an 82% reduction in trauma symptoms after just one week with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). ESAs assist in de-escalating crises and provide children with a sense of safety and comfort during their recovery from traumatic experiences.


Emotional support animals are beneficial for children facing a range of psychological conditions. These pets can reduce stress and anxiety while fostering empathy and responsibility in young ones. Moreover, children who find it difficult to connect with their peers often develop strong bonds with an emotional support animal.

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