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

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

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

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