The stresses of a divorce are often as overwhelming to a child as they are to the couple involved. While there is really no easy way to go through a divorce, parents who find themselves in this difficult situation need to remember to be parents throughout the ordeal, as much as they can help it. Last week we talked about breaking the news to your children and preparing them for what will come. This week, we’ll dive into handling children’s reactions and helping them cope.
Handling Their Reactions
There’s no real way of saying how your children will react to news of a divorce, so you should be prepared to handle their reactions no matter what. Assuring your children that you care about how they feel and that they have a right to their feelings is the first thing to do to help them cope with the news of a divorce.
“We know this is very upsetting for you.”
“Both of us love you and we are sorry that we have to live apart.”
“Can we try to find a way to make you feel better?”
Remember to use words like we and us when referring to yourselves as parents. Your children need to know that they can still count on you as a team when it comes to being their parents.
Not every child will react straightaway — some make take some time to get over the initial shock and denial, while others may act the way they think you want them to react. Some children may even avoid talking about their feelings by saying they are not upset. They may start to act up in different ways — changes in appetite, behaviour or sleeping patterns. Be sure to let them know that it is okay for them to talk about how they feel. If all else fails, suggest that they talk to an adult they trust who can help with what’s going on in their head and heart. Helping them cope involves you being ready for any of these scenarios and to answer any questions they may have.
Some questions they might ask:
- Where will I live?
- Who will I live with?
- Do I have to change schools?
- Where will mom/dad live?
- Who do we spend weekends with?
- Will we still go on holidays and outings together?
- Will I still see my friends?
You may not be able to divulge certain details, but telling your children what they need to know at that moment is enough.
Helping Them Cope
Grieving the loss of the family we hoped for is difficult. It is common for children to hope their parents get back together, even after a divorce is finalized. As your children try to adjust, you should do the best you can to help them cope with all the new changes.
Here are some ways you can help your children cope:
- Encourage honesty amongst everyone
- Be a good listener, especially when it’s difficult to hear what they have to say
- Recognize their feelings
- Be supportive
- Keep discussions with your spouse/ex-spouse private
- Seek help from a professional
If you and your spouse or children need help getting through this tough time, contact Touch Community Services for support.