Family Break-Up: 9 Ways to Support Your Child Through Your Divorce

Divorce Child, a work by Javad Alizadeh, Iranian artist - 8 Ways to Support Your Child Through Your Divorce

Divorce is never easy for anyone. This is especially true when children are involved.
It’s essential, therefore, that you support your children during this challenging time.
Consider these tips to help your child cope with the divorce process.

1. Listen to your children

It’s important that you take the time to listen to your child. Granted, children are not always forthcoming with what they are feeling. However, they need to know that you want to hear what they have to say and that you want to know how they are doing emotionally.
When a couple is going through a divorce, the children can sometimes feel they are on the sidelines. Let them know that you still want to put them first, no matter what.

2. Stay engaged with your children

When you are going through a divorce, it can feel totally overwhelming. As a result, it’s easy for all of your attention to become focussed on the divorce process. However, you need to ensure that you continue to engage with your children. Don’t let them slip through the cracks.
For instance, keep on top of who they are spending time with and where they are going. Continue to show interest in their school life, as well as their hobbies and interests.

3. Spend time together as a family

Create moments when you can be together as a family. If you and your partner are still on good terms, that’s great. However, if not, do what you can.
Continue to have your kids visit their grandparents, or plan out a day with just you and your children. Send them the message that just because you are going through a divorce doesn’t mean family time stops.

4. Let your children express their emotions

No one wants to see their children upset, and can be tempting to tell your kids not to cry or to put on a brave face. That, however, would be a mistake. Divorce is a terribly traumatic experience for children. They need to be able to have the space to express what they are feeling.
Of course, if you are struggling with your own emotions, it’s not easy to handle theirs as well. But remember, your child needs to have the opportunity to release the pressure they are feeling. Otherwise, they could be carrying the emotions surrounding the divorce for years to come. Appropriately expressing their emotions helps children to process what is going on.

5. Help your children identity their emotions

Even as adults, there can be times we struggle to identify our feelings, and children can find it even harder to do so. They don’t know how to put what they are feeling into words, especially when they’re very young. You can be a great resource for this process.
Help them find the right word (or words) to describe their emotions. It can be relieving for them to know what they are feeling has a name. But don’t limit yourselves to just words. Children might be more able to express their feelings through craft or art-based activities. Or they might be able to use an analogy. You could consider asking them, “What weather are you feeling right now?” Or, “If your feelings were an animal, what would it be?”
Some children would prefer to use sound to express what they are feeling, either by making ‘music’ (even with small children who might just be able to blow a whistle bang a drum) or by expressing their feelings in a grown or whatever.
The important thing is that your child has a way to let their feelings out, and have them heard.

6. Give your children space

Although it’s essential to make sure children continue to feel part of your family, it also necessary for them to have space for themselves, too. Allow them to continue to pursue their own interests and activities. Doing so helps create a sense of normalcy and structure in might be a very chaotic time in their lives.
Remember, you don’t need to be around them 24-7. Your children need to live their own lives as well.

7. Reassure your children

It can be difficult for children to manage the transition from one into two households. They might feel disconnected, having lost the stability they knew.
Remember, their lives just got turned upside down. Reassure your children that both their parents still love them. And let them know that you will get through this together.

8. Keep your own emotions in check

Make sure that you are keeping your own emotions in check in front of your children. Your children need security and stability. That means, for example, that you refrain from discrediting your former partner in front of them.
While you might need a place in which you can vent your feelings regarding the divorce, and your ex-partner, it’s not appropriate to involve your children in your process.

9. Get some support yourself

It might be helpful for you to speak with a trusted friend or family member. You could also see a therapist to help you through the emotional turmoil of your divorce. Unlike friends and family, a counsellor is not emotionally involved, and will not have an agenda, or tell you what you should do. Having a neutral space, where you can be free to expose your thoughts and emotions without it impacting your children, can make a world of difference.

A divorce is a life-changing event for everyone, including your children. That’s why it is so important you all get the help and support they need during this challenging period.

Artwork by Farhikht at English Wikipedia.

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