Making divorce less traumatic for your kids.
By Evans M Sifa.
One widely held view in this century and an often cited statistic is that one half of all marriages end in divorce.
It can be a hard time for any couple and an extra streneous emotional crisis especially if you have kids. Most parents never know how to approach issues arising from divorce in regards to kids. And sadly this leaves their kids to be just another statistic in a pool of divorce related stories and experiences.
Living in a society where ‘honest talk’ about emotional and tabboo topics like divorce are shunned away from the dinner table, it is bound to greatly affect your kids in various ways, like wrong coping mechanisms from the divorce and deep haboured feelings that surface at a later date in their lives to state a few. It is as traumatizing for kids as well as it is for spouses going through such a process.
Parents can make a divorce less traumatic for their kids by following these four tried and successful tips from couples with divorce experience who have overcome it in light of parenting :
Tip #1: Assure your kids that the divorce is not their fault
Children, especially young ones, have a tendency to blame themselves for the divorce. What a horrible burden to bear! From you and your former spouse, they need to hear the following message over and over:
Some kids blame themselves for their parents getting a divorce.
It is not your fault. We love you.
Tip #2: Avoid badmouthing your former spouse even in subtle ways.
As we all know, small ears hear more than big ones!
Kids need to know that it is okay to love both of you. Don’t place your child in a loyalty conflict by subtly suggesting that they should not love the other parent or have fun when they visit them. One father made this mistake in a very subtle yet damaging way. Each time he picked up the kids at his ex-wife’s, he would greet them with a worried look and ask nervously, “Are you guys okay? Did your visit go okay?”
It wasn’t long before the kids believed that they weren’t supposed to have an “okay” time at Mom’s house.
Oftentimes, these more subtle jabs are the most powerfully damaging.
Tip #3: Don’t waste time and energy trying to “convert” your former spouse to your parenting style.
Some divorced parents waste precious time and energy fighting a never-ending control battle with their former spouse over how to parent the kids.
Children adjust to different parenting styles, as long as their parents aren’t manipulated into giving in or getting angry. When your kids say things like, “But Dad lets us,” experiment with saying the following while not backing down:
You’re pretty lucky to have two parents who are different. Thanks for letting me know.
Tip #4: Don’t hesitate to seek qualified professional help.
Our children will never be healthier than we are. The trauma of divorce can result in major financial stress, lost friendships, depression, low self-esteem, anger, etc. A skilled therapist can help you and your kids move on to happier times, instead of getting bogged down in the pain.
One parent commented:
I never thought i’d end up divorced, and when my marriage ended i was devastated.
All i could think about were the news reports I’d seen about how messed up kids get when their parents break up. Therapy taught me how to take care of myself so that i could take care of my kids. It also taught me that the only thing i can really control is myself and how i react… not how their dad does. That was ten years ago. I think my kids are still a bit angry over what happened, but they’re doing well.
While divorce is certainly very difficult for kids, therapy offers easy-to-learn techniques that really work. Start building a happy future by getting started today.
Some of these tips have been borrowed from Charles Fay. Charles Fay, Ph.D. is a parent, author and consultant to schools, parent groups and mental health professionals around the world. His expertise in developing and teaching practical discipline strategies has been refined through work with severely disturbed youth in school, hospital and community settings. Charles has developed an acute understanding of the most challenging students. Having grown up through therapy, he also provides a unique and often humorous perspective.