Separation and divorce can be devastating but there are things you can do to support and comfort your child. Challenges that are confronted effectively can improve relationships and strengthen your child's ability to cope.
It is possible to have your children go through the divorce with relatively few problems or permanent negative effects. Changes in a child's living arrangements, time with parents, education and lifestyle can cause anger and fear. When a child cannot express and process those emotions, the child may feel extremely powerless and feel traumatized.
It is important to keep in mind that trauma has to do with the child's experience of the event, which is closely related to what their parents' attitude and message is. Therefore, your words and actions can either expose your children to unnecessary emotional pain or help them develop in positive ways
Here are some helpful tips to help your child cope with divorce:
Allow your children to communicate openly. Encourage them to describe their feelings and express the sadness, fear and anger they may be experiencing. This gives you an opportunity to provide comfort and reassure them that they will be loved and continue to be cared for and safe.
Offer your children choices, whenever possible, to increase their sense of power over their lives. These can include food choices, clothing choices and other choices that don't disrupt your routines or endanger their well-being.
Find support for yourself and your children. It takes a village to get things right. Reach out and ask for help from friends, family members, religious and secular support groups, counselors and therapists.
Provide continuity and stability. Children need the sense of continuity provided by a certain amount of structure such as dependable meal and bed times, leisure and work times.
Don't expose your kids to marital conflict
Do not argue with your spouse in front of your children or on the phone.
Refrain from talking with your children about details of your spouse's negative behavior.
Take care of yourself so you can help your child cope
If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame or guilt about your spouse, find someone to help you work through those feelings. By processing your emotions through talking with supportive people or a professional, and taking good care of yourself, you will be modeling ways for your kids to better cope with their strong emotions.
Follow Michelle Rozen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MichelleRozen