Psychotherapy Dogs Can Connect You to Your Child’s Soul
Imagine feeling empathy, compassion, and encouragement from a dog and being reassured by it. That’s an image that may just come to your mind as you read this article. For many people, even for those who are just struggling with symptoms, engaging with a therapy dog makes a huge difference. A story goes as follows:
When two 12-year-old boys were hospitalized for a serious illness, there was not a lot going on at their home. No one really cared about them as they recovered. They felt lost. Once, one boy read a book in his hospital room to a therapy dog, who was kept in a cage by a doctor. The dog didn’t even understand the words being read, just to have someone caring. The words were in his dog’s eyes; the dog stayed there. It touched their souls.
If it touched their souls, does it matter that the children were in a dog cage? Not at all. What this story tells us is that the kids felt closer to another human being, which sparked a connection between them. It was beyond their walls, touching their hearts. This is what therapy dogs do.
Helping Kids Tap Into their Human Soul
One of the tricks you can do is to read to a child while an adult (or therapy dog) in the room. There are a lot of ways to do this. Read to them during a story you are telling. Read to them quietly while you lie on your side with your legs at your chest. They can’t hear the words, but they can see you sitting there and you can read. Read to them while they are sitting or lying in a chair, behind a side table, or on the floor. Sing them a lullaby or a favorite song, just an old gem you sing yourself. That is the magic of therapy dogs, and this blog will give you some easy tips to get you started.
There are many families that have brought therapy dogs to their children’s hospital bedside to help share books with them. This may be something that is well worth doing for a child. Pairs of therapy dogs go along with their owner while the owner sits at the child’s bedside. The children’s owners sit in the child’s car seat while the dogs sniff around the child. The dog brushes the child’s face or massages their paws. Children are flattered and their behavior gets better as they realize their child is truly cared for. Another creative option is to take your own child to the hospital, then bring your dog along. You may even get to talk to the doctors and nurses before the child is removed to see them.
Again, your child will not hear the words, so they may see that this person is just sitting there with them. That is because you want them to see that you care about them. If you can see this person in that way, it may actually save your child’s life and touch their soul. It’s called taking care of them.
Putting the Heart in the Book
Good story, but the story doesn’t end there. It’s great to feel connected, but what happens when you are deep in an emotional state? This is when you may try to read, but you cannot really imagine the emotions you are going through. You cannot read a book to them, let alone a bedtime story, so you should read to them with a child’s level of interest. So, do not just read to them as though you are reading the book. Help them to understand the story and help them to engage in it to an extent.
If the kids are anything like mine, you will want to pause and give them small encouragement. If you stop for a second and hold their hand and help to look at each page, something interesting will happen. Your child will start to read it again.
Be it stories, songs, stories, or cards, read in a book to your child. It helps!
Get Started with Reading to Kids