There are times in life when staying together is actually unhealthy for a couple as well as all others involved and the most appropriate way forward is divorce. Divorce can be heartbreaking and harrowing for those going through it personally. Furthermore, if there are children in the picture, if not navigated appropriately, the affects of divorce on the psycho-emotional wellbeing of your young ones can be devastating.
Helping Your Children Through a Divorce
If you’re a parent going through a divorce, chances are, one of your prime concerns is the wellbeing of your children or adolescents.
As a therapist who has specialized in providing marriage counseling as well as couple and family therapy, I have learned a thing or two about helping children through a divorce that I will now share. Here are some ways that you can help your children heal when you’re going through a divorce.
Be Straight Forward
Many couples going through divorces make the mistake of hiding things from their children till the last minute. In some instances, couples may continue to lie to their children about what is going on even after legal divorce proceedings have commenced.
Don’t do this. Children are smart and perceptive. Lying to them means you’re simply adding to their anxiety. The best way forward is to be honest and tell them what is going on as well as you can and give them the room to communicate with you about how they feel.
It is important for your children to know that the divorce is merely a change in scenario or how things are done. It will not affect the amount of love you or your ex partner feel for them. It will not put their safety or wellbeing at risk. They will still have a home (maybe two!) and people who love and care for them.
As a fully grown adult, this might seem obvious, but it isn’t so simple for a child who maybe witnessing the separation of two parents. The more both you and your partner verbally and physically reassure your children that their lives will not change for the worse, the better off they will be.
Don’t Make them Play Adult
The worst thing you can do to your children is involve them in your divorce more than is absolutely necessary. Using them to communicate, asking them if you should stay together and making them play mini-adults in the situation are all total no-nos!
Your kids are your kids. Treat them like that. Don’t make them feel responsible for the success of your relationship or lack of. That’s on you!
Try to Offer Consistency
Sure readjusting post a divorce can be stressful business; however, you and your partner should attempt to offer your children some form of consistency regardless. Share custody, responsibility and time if the situation allows it. Try not to do things like drinking too much and wallowing in self pity when your kids are around. Sure you can do what you need to. Just make arrangements for them first.
Your children will need consistency at this time. Try to keep their routines going; show up on time to pick them up from places and make sure you do things you would normally like have meals together. The more consistency you and your partner offer, the easier the divorce is on your children.
Be as Available as You Can
Though divorces are emotionally exhausting, try to save a little energy so you can be available to your children. They will look to you for support and comfort and may even be curious about why things did not work out with you and the other parent or partner.
Try to be available to your children as much as possible. Spend time with them. Talk to them. Answer their questions. The more available you are to your children, the safer they will feel.
The thing about divorces is that there is a certain minimum distress or discomfort level associated with the process that cannot be avoided. That being said, the steps above should help you buffer your children from the worst of it and help them heal.
Of course you will need to look after yourself as well which is why post-divorce therapy or counseling is recommended. If you’re located in Palo Alto and are in need of a therapist or counselor specializing in couples or family work, we’re always available!