Your spouse and you have decided to part ways for good and the next glaring question is how to help the children go through this tumultuous time. Divorce rates are soaring with each passing day and researchers keep warning us about the emotional harm that broken families can have on kids.1 Staying in a bad marriage or having to endure the consequences of an ugly divorce can both affect children similarly. As the nurturers of our children’s well-being, here are 5 tips on how we can help them feel loved and secure despite the changing family dynamics.
1. Make Your Child Feel Wanted
Watching her daddy/mommy leave is not a cakewalk for any child. Many adults treat children as incapable of feeling too much but it’s actually the opposite. A child who witnesses her once intact family break apart is on an emotional roller-coaster. While the parents will be preoccupied being at each other’s throats and finalizing the divorce proceedings, it’s only natural that the child and its well-being will get overlooked. This time is crucial for reassuring your child with relentless attention and care so that she feels emotionally secure. Children tend to assume that maybe they are responsible for their parents’ divorce. It’s up to the parents to have one-on-one time with their kids to brush aside such doubts and to make them feel loved.
2. Encourage Your Child To Express Freely
Sometimes, if the estranged parent is unable to make time for the kid, he will end up feeling unwanted and unimportant. Remember that your child’s feelings are as important as yours and when he feels a need to express himself, allow it without interrupting. Be a confidant for your child and encourage him to express himself freely, even if that involves criticisms and harsh words. This will empower your child to unleash pent up frustration without internalizing it. Don’t let the divorce wreak havoc with your child’s daily routine as lack of consistency can also leave your child insecure.
3. Be Your Best Possible Version
Parenthood is both daunting and remarkable. When you see yourself stranded with a chunk of responsibility for your child, the pressure can sometimes become too much to handle. Remember, not to lash out in anger towards your children, that could hurt them for life. Even if your estranged spouse is not keeping up with visitation timings or not being cooperative enough, refrain from using your child as a punching bag. Become calm and collected with exercise and meditation and yoga, so that you don’t get overwhelmed even when your kids are acting up. Never fight with or badmouth your ex in front of your kids as this could lead to more resentment in them. If you feel that you need some extra support, reach out to your immediate family or friends to lend you a hand in managing things for a while. Roping in a family therapist can also help your children adjust to circumstances better.
4. Say Goodbye And Welcome Cheerfully
Many parents express a lot of angst and disappointment when children go to spend weekends at the other parent’s place. When a child sees that her mom is angry or sad when she is leaving for dad’s home or vice-versa, it can put her in a state of mind where she wouldn’t be able to enjoy time spent with dad. Also when your children return after a weekend at the other parent’s place, don’t act all worked up or indifferent either. Show a genuine interest and joy in things they did over the weekend without being jealous or nosy.
5. Do Combined Activities Together
The process of divorce is a challenging life change for everyone involved. This is an important time to re-establish parent-child bonds with loads of love and solidarity. In times like theses, making time for shared activities like drawing, outdoor games and hobbies like starting a journal with your kids can help the family heal. Relationship-building activities help parents and their children to cope better and understand each other’s frame of mind better.2
A divorce doesn’t ruin a child’s life but selfish parents with insecurities do. Any divorce is a painful phase for both children and family. Instead of using the divorce as a revenge tactic, it’s crucial that the adults in the relationship behave as maturely as possible by placing the best interests of their children above anything else. Children can sense tension and if they are subjected to a dramatic divorce, they will end up getting scarred for life with no faith in love. Thoughtful parents who place the emotional and physical well-being of their children not only prevent them from being emotionally broken for life but also set a positive example of co-parenting in front of their kids.3
|↑1||Tschann, Jeanne M., Janet R. Johnston, Marsha Kline, and Judith S. Wallerstein. “Conflict, loss, change and parent-child relationships: Predicting children’s adjustment during divorce.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 13, no. 4 (1990): 1-22.|
|↑2||Activities for Helping Children Deal with Divorce. UNIVERSITY OPF MISSOURI. EXTENSION|
|↑3||Lansky, Vicki. It’s Not Your Fault, KoKo Bear: A Read-together Book for Parents & Young Children During Divorce. Book Peddlers, 1997|