How can you help your children cope with the divorce?

By Dr. Lami
September 10, 2013
 
CA FAQs/Children

The two most important components that will help your kids cope with the separation of the two most significant people in their lives is providing them with stability and structure.

In general, it is good for kids to learn to be flexible; however, when it comes to a time of divorce, when many adjustments are required at once, teaching them to be flexible is not the first choice of healthy parenting. It is important that you reconcile with yourself that teaching flexibility should be placed on hold for a while, and be replaced with the understanding that your job is to help your children adjust to the change. How? By providing them with as much stability and structure in their daily lives!

What does that mean?

First, it doesn't mean that parents need to implement rigid schedules or that routines need to be exactly the same, but rather, some regular routines should be created and maintained at each household. It is also vital to communicate with your children on a consistent basis with what they should expect. This will provide them with a sense of calm and constancy that may be valuable during this period.

Please be aware that both younger and older children appreciate routine and stability. They feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next; for example, knowing that homework comes first, then a bath, and dinner last, can set a child's mind at ease, even if they switch homes.

Do not stop following rules, giving rewards, and issuing discipline as necessary, because it helps show that routines are maintained. Recognize the temptation to spoil your kids during a divorce, for any reason, but especially because you may feel sorry for what they have to endure. You must resist! For instance, when you find yourself allowing them to break rules or when you do not impose limits, you may inadvertently be causing future problems.

Your goal is to aim at preventing your children from experiencing lasting stress and pain. Establishing structure and stability requires the collaboration of both parents. The following can help achieving these goals:

  1. Show that you are calm and nice: when you interact with your children make sure to be calm and nice, even though you may be hurting inside, or when you and your ex-spouse interact, be polite and appropriate with each other.

  2. A well-known text book rule: Do not argue in front of your children: whether it's in person or over the phone, do not be tempted. Ask your ex to talk another time, or drop the conversation altogether.

  3. Aim to develop amicable relationship with your ex-spouse: make it a priority as soon as possible. When kids observe that you are friendly with their other parent, it indirectly reassures them and teaches them a problem-solving skill (subliminally, they learn that you can solve a problem in a friendly way and it does not have to be aggressive, hostile or argumentative).

  4. Do not talk negatively about the "other" parent with your kids: refrain from talking negatively with your children about their other parent's behavior: "did you see what he did," "How could he have done that to us," "your mother does not want me to..." etc. Practice saying nice things about their other parent, and if you cannot, don't say anything at all.

  5. Look at positive aspects: choose to focus on the positive, and encourage your children to do the same. Teach your children to list 5 positive aspects about life each morning during breakfast.

All the above 5 suggestions will set a good example for your kids. They will see that although mom and dad are not together, they are still okay with each other. It will automatically instill a sense of safety and stability.


Dr. Lami is an internationally renowned psychologist with over 18 years of experience helping her clients effectively deal with challenges associated with the process of divorce. Her services include Psychotherapy, Coaching, Evaluation (including Affluenza), Expert witness, Speaking and Consulting. She regularly writes on relationships and has been featured in the media. Visit the firm's website at drlami.com or universalinsights.net.

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September 10, 2013
Categories:  Children and Divorce|FAQs

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