I feel certain you and your family have been affected by divorce. Either yours or someone you know. Divorce is so prevalent in our society but thankfully, the latest research indicates the rate is down a bit.
For kids, divorce can be an unsettling, sad, confusing and scary time. Their world, as they know it, has been turned upside down. I really believe that you, their parents, hold the key here.
I have seen kids come out of a divorce pretty well, but that was only because their parents were emotionally healthy enough to know just what to do and how to help.
How parents manage their emotions toward each other and their feeling about the divorce is, I’m convinced, the biggest determining factor in how kids fare. When parents hold on to their hurt, anger and sadness, it just gets in the way. Parents that can put their personal issues aside and work together in the best interest of the kids are rock stars, I think.
How do we tell our kids, you ask? If possible, both parents need to be present when the new of the divorce is announced. With care and sensitivity, you need share only the basics. “Mom and Dad have decided we can’t live together anymore so we are getting a divorce.” No ugly or unnecessary details, please. Above all, be truthful. Tell your children that the divorce was not their fault, nothing they did caused it and that it is between the adults.
Next, reassurance will feel comforting to them. So, let them know how they will be impacted by this change in their family. “You will now have two homes. On school days you will be at the house you and Mom live in and on weekends you will be at the house you and I live in.”
Allow them to express what they are feeling. By the way, it is appropriate to let them know that you are feeling sad about this as well. They might show you a wide range of emotions. Your job is to acknowledged their struggle and be with them as the emote. Tell them “divorce is hard and Dad and I are going to be here to help you.”
Convey to them that your love for them hasn’t changed nor will it. Younger children sometimes think that since their parent’s don’t love each other anymore, they could stop loving them too.
Give them permission to call their other parent if they want to, even when they are with you. Being separated from either parent is hard and the connection needs to be nurtured. To put pressure on them to choose sides is more than kids can handle. A good example is activities that both parents attend. Many parents won’t allow their child to speak to, sit with, and interact with the other parent because it encroaches on their visitation time. This is sad for our kids and puts them in an awkward situation. As much as you might not care for the other parent, encourage your child’s relationship with their other parent.
Finally, watch for changes in the way they do life. Sleeping patterns, eating patterns, a decline in academics and friendship problems, are all things to monitor. Some children get aggressive while some get anxious and withdraw. Others go into a deep sadness. While some children react immediately and begin to show signs of distress some have a delayed reaction. There is absolutely no way to predict how your child might react, so be watchful.
What I do know is that children can and do adapt, even in life’s most difficult situations.
There’s Always Hope,