When divorce happens, everyone in the family is affected in one way or other, each experiencing it and perceiving it in his/her own way.
For children, as mentioned in a previous post, divorce, no matter how amicable remains a significant moment in his/her life.
I always say that what has happened is important but what is even more crucial is how it’s handled i.e it is your present and long term reaction to the situation that matters the most.
Divorce doesn’t have to have any long term negative effects on your child. You, as the parent, can handle and manage the situation in a way that will help your young ones come through it as unscathed as possible.
So, what might help make your child’s journey easier?
- As hard as it seems right now, let your children know that they are loved by both parents even if your ex-spouse isn’t exactly showing a lot of love at the moement
- Refrain from involving your children in adult matters and responsibilities. This includes financial matters. If you cannot afford to do something for your child due to lack of financial support, just let them know that it’s not a good time to spend that money. You don’t need to add that you have no money because “daddy has refused to pay child support.” That kind of information only
- Acknowledge and normalise their worries and anxieties. Let them know that what they are feeling is very normal and also make it clear that everything that is happening regarding the divorce is for you to take care of. It is your responsibility to make sure that they are OK – not their responsibility to fix the situation in any way.
- Closely tied to the previous point: keep all doors open for your child to ask questions. If you don’t have the answer tell them so. Speak to them and answer their questions as best you can. Do not divulge unnecessary and hurtful information to them just to get back at the other parent. A good way of knowing what is appropriate and what isn’t is to ask yourself, “How will they benefit from this information?”
- Be sure to spend time with them as much as possible, for both younger ones and adolescents. I don’t mean hours on end, even short bursts of five minutes or more can help as long as at that particular moment they have your full attention.
- Keep your promises and be reliable. Allow them the security of knowing that they can count on you and your word. Avoid making promises you cannot keep. It hurts and disappoints them.
- Make as few changes to your everyday life as possible. Whenever possible, allow them to carry on with their extra-curricular activities, routines and visits to friends and extended family.
- Withdrawing teenagers need to be brought back into the family fold as much as possible by showing an interest in what they are taking part in (e.g. sports, games and their friends), without being intrusive. Important to remember that, though they may resist it, teenagers still need their boundaries set – just as in toddlerhood. There is a reason why this stage of life is known as the second toddlerhood. They seek the independence but still need the guidance and security.
Divorce is tough going for all but to be honest, it doesn’t have to be the one thing that will mark your child forever.
There are means and ways of ensuring that this doesn’t happen.