Few things in life are as challenging as coping with the process of separation and divorce. Divorce is something that affects all members of a family, but this transition is especially hard on children.
Seeing their parents break up can be quite unsettling for kids, and they’ll often go through a range of conflicting emotions, from angst and sadness to loneliness and insecurity.
Dealing with separation can be an emotional roller coaster until children are able to fully accept the situation as it is, which is why it is important for parents to find ways to ease the transition and support their children in these difficult times.
These five pieces of advice show how you can minimize the negative impact the divorce has on your family and what you can do to help your children manage their emotions effectively.
Help Your Children Emotionally Cope with Separation and Divorce
Keep the lines of communication open
After getting a divorce, one of the parents’ top priorities should be helping their child adjust to the situation as easily as possible. Your children should be able to talk to you and address any fears and concerns they may have about the divorce. They also need to feel comfortable doing so, which is why you should do your best to keep the lines of communication open and make it easier for children to approach such a sensitive topic.
They may address the issue in various situations, but regardless of whether they decide to talk about the separation during lunch, on walks, or while preparing for bed, talk to them openly and encourage honesty, answering any of their questions appropriately.
Create a sense of familiarity in both homes
The emotional impact that divorce has on children is enormous, mostly because the feeling of security and stability have been taken away from them. This can cause quite a turmoil when it comes to their emotions and in these times, the thing they crave the most is a sense of familiarity.
Younger children may feel confused as to why their parents need to live in two separate homes and why they need to transfer between two houses. This is why parents need to make sure both of the homes that children visit are comfortable and welcoming.
It’d be best if you’d cooperate with your former spouse to ensure that both households contain objects that will create a sense of familiarity in kids. From toys and clothing to their favorite foods and school supplies, including as many familiar items as you can will make your children feel at home regardless of the house they’re staying at.
Let your children express their feelings through play
Divorces often come as a shock to children and while some children may be able to talk openly about such a delicate topic, the psychological effects of divorce may cause some children to withdraw socially and keep their feelings bottled up instead of discussing them and addressing the issue.
Because children feel the most comfortable when they’re playing as they’re able to escape the real world by relying on their imagination, it might be a good idea for parents to try to get their children to express their emotions through different activities such as drawing pictures or playing games.
You can also use puppets to get them to open up about their feelings or act out different scenarios, addressing the sensitive topic through role-playing. This encourages children to express how they really feel about the situation at hand and do so in a positive manner.
Rely on creative activities to help your children channel negative emotions
Depending on your children’s age, they will be spending the majority of their days either at school or kindergarten. This means that, aside from parents, teachers and caregivers can also play an important role in helping children cope better with their parents’ divorce and make the adjustment much easier for them.
For example, they can assist by making the child feel included in classes, having conversations with the child, being available for them to speak to when needed, as well as adjusting their expectations when it comes to a child’s academic performance.
Extracurricular activities can also be an effective way of coping with troublesome feelings. Be it playing sports, learning how to play an instrument, or attending language classes at a local learning center, there are a lot of activities you enroll your children in to occupy their minds. Doing so will help shift their thoughts to something more positive and productive and help them overcome negative emotions easier.
Remain consistent with routines and discipline
Changes as big as divorce can put both the parents and kids under a lot of pressure. However, as much as separation can disrupt your day-to-day functioning, it’s important to continue with your daily schedules as you normally would. Both parents should try their best to maintain a similar routine and discipline in both households.
Whether it’s the rules regarding homework, bedtime, or morning routines, being consistent with your expectations helps children maintain a sense of security while predictability helps them find stability when dealing with an unfamiliar situation.
Consequently, the fear of the unknown is lessened, stress and anxiety are reduced, and boundaries are set, allowing your children to adapt to a new situation and go through the transitional period feeling safe and secure.
Feelings of concern, angst, frustration, and loneliness are some of the emotions children usually deal with after facing the separation of their parents. Although it takes time to adjust to the newfound situation, if the whole family makes an effort to accept things as they are and make necessary changes, it is possible to reintroduce a sense of stability when there is seemingly none.
By talking to their children, listening to them, understanding their emotions, and making use of creative and effective coping strategies, parents can connect with their kids and help them work through the struggles that come with a divorce, ultimately healing as time goes on.
Diana Wills is a Biochemistry graduate and a freelance writer who’s passionate about a healthy lifestyle, family wellness, and self-care.