Advice for Parents and their children: If you are going through a divorce, be sure to go over these topics with your child in order to ease the emotional pain and general transition.
The most important thing to realize is that a parents’ divorce is not the child’s fault. So many children believe if they were better behaved or did this or that right, then their parents would not be getting a divorce. That is not true, it is the parents’ relationship that is different or they are no longer a “good fit,” is the reason for divorce, not you. It is very normal to have strong emotional feelings about a parents’ divorce. It can be very difficult and painful to go through. Unless the family experienced domestic violence, it might be a relief to not have continuous fighting or verbal abuse occurring in the home.
Our families can also experience split loyalties and pressure from a parent to take sides and feel guilty. This is not fair to the child because they have the right to love you individually for who you are to them. In my practice, numerous children have stated that they feel as if they are caught in the middle, to take sides. This can create emotional upheaval for your child. Try to find ways and strategies through counseling to prevent this.
Your children also have the right to follow their own dreams, hopes, and goals for their life not just their parents’ needs. Children are allowed to experience their own feelings even if it doesn’t match their parents whether it is anger, pain, frustration, hurt, jealousy, love, or whatever they are going through. If you and your family have a counselor to go to, then please take advantage of this opportunity. There are agencies that are free or have sliding scales. A counselor at your child’s school can help them adjust to the situation as well.
Basic tips for surviving and personal growth during a parents divorce.
- Dealing with these issues alone can be very stressful on a child, please help them by giving them a professional counselor to talk to. It is so beneficial to your whole family to have someone trained in the field to guide you and help all of you through this process. Money does not have to be an issue because agencies like Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Terros, clergy or church community, etc. can help you and your family.
- Continue to help keep your regular routine as well as your child’s such as, school, sports, clubs, and other activities to keep normalcy in your lives and something that is their own. Consider volunteering in order to give back to your community. This can be advantageous for both a parent and child. This can benefit and can help you both feel better in your lives. Focusing on helping others when we hurt is great medicine for the soul.
- If you have yoga, meditation tapes, or any relaxation music, humorous books or movies to watch can be helpful when you and your child are sad or depressed at this time. Sometimes suggesting journaling one’s feelings privately can be helpful for both child and parent to do. Doing art or other activities together can help release negative feelings for the time being if you have no one to talk too.
- Although everyone in the family is hurting, help your child be aware to not take on anyone else’s feelings in the family and harbor them inside themselves. This can be very destructive and can create anger which can affect one’s behavior or actions in a destructive manner. Being physical or aggressive with people, verbally abusive, or numbing your feelings through drugs and alcohol are all warning signs that you need someone to hold you up and support you through this difficult and stressful time. If your child’s grades go down, this can indicate a lack of motivation and feelings of hopelessness. Just allow yourself and your child to have this range of emotions and do not beat yourself up for them or belittle your child’s feelings. Try to validate your child’s feelings by making statements such as, “Johnny, I know you are angry that dad no longer lives here, and you must miss him.” These types of statements can reassure your child’s feelings and help diffuse their anger.
- Allow your child to speak up and let them have a “voice” about their feelings in regards to school, jobs, family matters, babysitting, money, activities, clothes, sleep arrangements, holidays, vacations etc.
- As parents, try to understand your child’s positions in the divorce so you can eventually understand their feelings and needs. Try to be patient, as a parent, because although you are going through hurt, anger, and frustration, your child is also unclear of all the decisions and feelings they are going through as well. Try to approach your child in a positive manner by saying things in a polite or kind voice. Often times, when we are angry, we may direct/transfer our anger onto our children. This can cause upheaval in the home and distance ourselves from healthy communication with our children.
- Ask close relatives, friends, or neighbors whom you trust to talk to you or your children about what your family is experiencing. Often times, friends or relatives, who have also been divorced, can be helpful to talk to about these matters.
- Manipulation can occur when children feel confused and not know what to do about their living situations. A therapist or counselor can help set parameters and structure during this difficult transition so that everyone is on the same page and knows what to do.
- Reading books or other media about divorce with your child can be beneficial. This can help open communication skills and discuss feelings they are experiencing.
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