It goes without saying that the emotional toll that divorce has on a couple can be significant. Whether or not the divorce was amicable or uncivil, the effects can be long-standing.
Divorce and children, however, can be potentially devastating for all involved. While many adults are emotionally mature enough to have the necessary tools to deal with the strain, the stress that it can have on any or all children involved can border on trauma. While time may help to heal a child’s wounded heart as a result of divorce, there are several measures you can take to help alleviate their stress in the meantime.
Make Sure Your Child Knows They Are Loved
A common occurrence that immediately follows a divorce is that the children will blame themselves for their parents splitting up. As a result, the children may feel that since they are the apparent cause of the divorce, their parents may no longer love them.
It is vital to communicate that not only do you both love your children just as much as ever, but that the dissolution of the marriage was not their fault. This can manifest itself with loving words and hugs, fun trips out, extra one-on-one “quality” time, or any shared activity that gives your child joy. So long as you put in the effort, the child will feel the love you’re showing.
Be Open, Honest & Respectful
Make sure that your child understands what is happening around them. The first thing that you can do is be honest with your children and let them know why this is happening in a way that they can understand.
For example, you could explain that adults may sometimes change how they feel towards each other and therefore have to be apart. Another take could be that adults sometimes no longer agree on things and that it’s better for the family to live apart. Whatever the explanation, be respectful of your children and make sure that all their questions are answered.
Maintain A Consistent Routine
Children may come at you with a plethora of questions regarding how a divorce will affect their life. This may be something like who will I live with? Do I have to move? Where will I spend my holidays?
As a general rule, you and your ex have to maintain as consistent a schedule as possible. Make sure that they know when and where they will be during the school week and weekends so that their expectations can be satisfied. The last thing you want is your child to feel that their world has gone topsy-turvy amidst the turmoil of a divorce.
Impart, Inform & Advise
In concert with keeping an open line of communication, it is imperative that you make this an opportunity to step up to the challenge and learn how to be a better parent. This may take the form of being more empathic, more decisive or more patient. As time carries on, you will develop a parental skill set that you can use to impart, inform and advise your children in your own way. Remember, all you can do is be yourself; be truthful and try your very best.
Be As Amicable As Possible
Whatever tensions exist between you and your ex, try to keep a united front. Maintain a veneer of calm so that your child can be as happy as possible. If a fight does happen, DO NOT have it in front of the children. That will add more stress to their lives and throw them off balance.
Do not blame or criticize the other to your children. Showing a unified front will reinforce stability, strength and safety and allow your children a safe passage throughout their day-to-day life.
If you are unable to agree so that you can work together, than do not disagree and argue in front of the children and agree to disagree. The children will be able to adapt to different rules in different houses as long as the other parent is not demonized.
If you are going through the trauma of a divorce, whether there are children involved or not, PARC’s experienced, compassionate therapists are here to help. Call us now on 212.289.0295 to speak to someone today.