Help your child deal with divorce
Getting a divorce can be heartbreaking and could have a devastating effect on children. Jane Crossley shares advice on how to help children through this difficult time
GOING THROUGH A divorce can cause the same amount of tension in children as it does in adults. During a divorce parents can become so wrapped up in their own emotions that they forget that their children are also experiencing feelings of uncertainy, sadness, anger and anxiety. Getting a divorce is heartbreaking, but there are measures you can put in place to help your child through this difficult time.
HOW TO BREAK THE NEWS If you and your partner have made up your minds about getting a divorce, you have to inform your children. There is no easy way to break the news to your children. Make sure that both parents are present.
Before you speak to the children both of you have to agree to leave your own feelings of guilt and resentment out of the conversation. To spare the children any further heartache it is important to remain neutral.
Keep the conversation age appropiate, yet sensitive. Your children have to understand that Mom and Dad are unfortunately no longer happy together and have decided it is best to go their separate ways.
Emphasise that a getting a divorce does not mean that you are going to abandon them. Reassure them that you will always love them unconditionally, even though you have fallen out of love with one another.
Many children wonder if they are the cause of their parents’ divorce, therefore it is important to let them know that it is
not their fault, and can never be.
Be mindful of the fact that your kids could be very confused and will have a lot of questions rolling around in their minds. Answer their questions truthfully, but do not divulge more information than what is necessary. You do not need to complicate the situation with too much information.
The first questions that children usually ask are: “Why are you getting a divorce?”, “Where is Mom or Dad going to live?”, “Am I still going to see him regularly?”, “Who am I going to live with?”, and “Is there anything I can do to make sure that you stay together?”
HOW THEY WILL REACT When babies and toddlers experience stress and tension they undergo a change in their eating and sleeping patterns. They could cry more, be crabby or experience separation anxiety.
Preschoolers are more prone to temper tantrums. They are worried about the divorce and could show baby-like regression behaviours like wetting the bed or sucking their thumb.
Children between the ages of six and eight years old can express their sadness in the form of physical problems. Your child could complain of tummy cramps or headaches even though this might not be the case.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY Children react differently to the news that their parents are getting a divorce. Some children may not show any emotion at first while
others cry hysterically or show anger towards you.
Regardless of how they choose to react, remember that a divorce can be traumatising. Always be sympathetic, console them and pay them lots of attention.
Guard against consoling them by buying them gifts as this could create a precedent. Patience and unconditional love is the best remedy for their broken hearts.
Help your child to verbalise his feelings by creating an open dialogue. If a child is uncomfortable speaking to a parent about their feelings, encourage them to their teacher or a friend.
Acknowledge that their feelings are hurt. Sometimes all your child needs to feel better is to know that you understand what they are going through.
If all else fails, seek the help of a qualified therapist to assist your child through this difficult time. YB