Minimizing Trauma: How to Help Your Kids Deal with Divorce
Divorce is an extremely painful and traumatic time for everyone involved, and in particular the children.
In many cases, parents are probably doing what’s best for their children by divorcing, but that reality doesn’t make it any easier for the kids.
There’s also the potential for kids to become part of the divorce proceedings, to be used as tools during custody battles, and as a source of revenge for parents.
Luckily for parents, if you tackle the issue appropriately, you can effectively minimize damage and help your kids heal in a healthy and productive way.
What to Avoid
Before learning how you can help your kids heal, it’s a good idea to know what you shouldn’t be doing during a divorce.
- Don’t use your child as a way to communicate with your former spouse. You are the adults and the parents, and regardless of the situation, you need to find some way to communicate directly, without putting your children in an uncomfortable situation. Use text messaging or email if you’re not able to communicate face-to-face.
- Don’t talk to kids about what’s happening, beyond the basics. When you’re feeling lonely and upset, you may turn to your kids for comfort, but kids, even if they’re older, don’t need to hear the nasty details of a divorce. It may lead to resentment toward your spouse, or even you. Keep it on a need-to-know basis.
- Don’t try to find out what your former spouse is doing through your children. Your kids realize if they’re being put in the middle, and it can cause anxiety to make them feel as if they’re having to rat out one parent to another.
So…What Should You Do?
The first and most important thing you can do is help your child understand what’s occurring has nothing to do with them. Many kids feel they’re to blame when a divorce occurs, and alleviating those feelings goes a long way in helping them cope effectively.
It’s also best to encourage your child to express his emotions about the situation, rather than keeping them hidden.
Also remember that aside from the actual divorce, there’s a lot of change that goes along with it, such as custody agreements and moving. This can produce anxiety in children of any age, so try to create a new routine and settle into it as quickly as possible.
Work to settle custody agreements, and get back to a sense of normalcy so your children can begin readjusting to the situation. When creating custody arrangements, if your children are older, you can even include them and let them have a bit of a say in what’s going to work best for everyone. Keep as many routines the same as you can, such as school and activities.
Don’t Let Emotions Cloud Your Role as a Parent
When going through a divorce, above all else, despite how you may be feeling, you should never let your emotions take over and dictate how you operate as a parent.
A divorce doesn’t mean your children will be scarred forever, if you navigate the situation with thought and consider the needs and emotions of your children.