How can you help your kids get through a divorce and remain emotionally healthy?
While it’s true that divorce remains one of the most stressful events we can go through, the good news is that there are steps you can take to help your children adjust to the divorce of their parents.
Conflict is bad for kids
Should you stay together for the sake of the kids? Stephanie Haen, Director of Behavioral Health at Fairfield County, Connecticut’s Family Centers says even infants can sense tension and anger. Children of all ages are affected by family conflict, impacting their temperament and ability to attach to parents and others.
Talk to your kids about the divorce
Sometimes you may be tempted to think that shielding your children from the truth will protect them. But for children, divorce arouses a lot of fear. They wonder who they will live with, if they’ll have to make a choice, whether Mum and Dad will change. Haen says that being open with your children in an age-appropriate way is the best way to alleviate their fear. “As with most situations, being open with a child in a developmentally appropriate manner is a healthier approach. Explain what is happening, assure kids that they didn’t cause this in any way. Let kids know what it will look like when one parent moves out of the house.”
Kids will blame themselves unless you step in
Haen says that young children buy into magical thinking – “if I didn’t have that tantrum, or if I behaved better, they’d still be together.” It’s therefore important to reassure them that they will be safe and will spend time with each parent.
Adolescents tend to display their fear through anger, and though you may think they are better equipped to deal with a divorce, Haen says their brains still aren’t fully formed. She says: “the adolescent brain isn’t fully developed so preteens and teens tend to question what they’ve done to bring this on.” As with younger children, it’s important to acknowledge older children’s feelings and provide reassurance that they aren’t to blame.
Divorce can help kids understand intimacy and relationships
Haen says that a divorce is often a good moment to help your kids understand what a healthy relationship should be, how to communicate effectively, and how to resolve conflict in a mature way. She also adds that: “We may be scared to hear how kids feel but we need to provide a safe place to share feelings in a way that encourages a healthy outlook. That doesn’t mean hiding sadness or anger, nor dwelling on these feelings so they interfere with the rest of our lives.”
Divorces that are high-conflict and acrimonious are bad for everyone in the family, but especially the children. We specialise in settling divorces as quickly and easily as possible so that conflict is kept to a minimum.
If you have any questions about separation or divorce, contact us today for your free, 10-minute phone consultation.