Divorce is difficult for all involved especially the children. With January notoriously being the busiest month for divorce attorneys with divorce filings up by one third the joy of a new year can be plagued by the emotional consequences of this trying time. For children, this can be a time beset by confusion, sadness, and fear. However, to lessen the hardship for children experiencing divorce there are some rules parents can follow to help their children cope and thrive despite this unfortunate reality.
Communicate even the smallest of information directly to your ex. Avoid communicating to your ex through your child at all costs. Even the simple “tell you father to remember to pick you up after school” can put unnecessary responsibilities and stress on your child.
Talk positively about your ex and if you can’t don’t talk (like grandma says “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all). Leave the anger and hurts out of it when talking about your ex in front of the kids. This places children in a double bind…if they stay loyal to your ex they are then being disloyal to you. Choosing between parents is a horribly uncomfortable and harmful position for a child to be in.
Save the arguments for elsewhere; avoid arguing in front of the kids. Observing conflict between parents leaves children feeling fearful and insecure. If you feel you are unable to remain calm when talking to your ex it may be time to work on managing this and minimize contact in the meantime until this has improved.
Attempt to keep the routines going as much as possible. One of the biggest impacts divorce has on children is the huge disruption in their daily routines so look for ways to keep this to a minimum. Keep the carpools going, stay in the same school, and if possible keep an occasional family dinner. This will help alleviate feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and stress.
Don’t restrict access to your ex (unless necessary for safety). You can’t be both parents- it’s important to remember the child’s need for a relationship with each of you. Withholding your child from your ex hurts all involved. It will surely not resolve your hurt and only leads to further conflict with your ex and not to mention feelings of anger, sadness, and maybe even resentment from your child.
Seek professional help if necessary. Although most children adjust without complication to divorce, some may benefit from short-term therapy to get them back to their normal happy selves. If your child appears to be more distressed than what is to be expected or is experiencing changes in sleep, eating, and social and/or academic functioning it may be a sign your child is experiencing difficulty adjusting and will benefit from therapy. Additionally, should you feel like your feelings following the divorce are starting to overcome your life and interfere with your ability to put your child first don’t hesitate to seek help.
If you have any questions about this blog or want to discuss how we work with divorce transitions email us at info@CBTIofSoCal.com and sign up for our e-newsletter.