I have been working with children and families for over 12 years now specialising in the area of trauma, loss and bereavement and what I have found is that, what has happened is important, but what is even more crucial is how it’s handled.
When parents go through divorce, it can affect children in various ways depending very much on the process itself and the after care.
The divorce process is already hard enough, physically, emotionally and mentally. Parents will at times not be able to care for their little ones as they wish to because they are just not emotionally and mentally available or they may behave in a way that they believe is conducive to their child’s well being but in honest truth it’s only beneficial to them.
The most important things to remember when helping children cope with divorce are the following:
- Get yourself some support. Put your own support system in place that will look after you by being objective as opposed to one that will fan the flames of your anger or negative emotions. Use the people you have chosen or who have offered you assistance to vent your emotions, look after the children while you rest or get on with whatever you need to do and who will even be happy to accompany you to various appointments e.g. your solicitor if need be. Don’t go it alone and please don’t be afraid to ask.
- Pay attention to the questions your children ask about what has happened or what is happening. It’s easy to assume that they understand why the divorce is happening while in most cases they don’t really get it and this applies to teenagers too. So do answer their questions as best as possible and as honestly as possible.
- Avoid making promises that you know are out of your control. For instance don’t promise that you and daddy or mummy will eventually get back together, that it’s just a temporary separation or that you will see them every weekend if you know that that has not been agreed to yet.
- Create parenting plans that are appropriate for their age. A parenting plan created for a 3 year old is unlikely to work on a 10 year old. Also be prepared to adjust the plan as your child grows. In teenage years for instance, they will wish to spend more time with their friends than you and the family. That is absolutely developmental appropriate and expected.
- If at all possible, trying using a family mediator or a Mackenzie friend to help you through the divorce process. They are not only much cheaper than going through solicitors and the courts, but, and more importantly, play a vital role in keeping you and your ex-partner focused on what needs to be done while making sure you don’t stray due to emotions running high. Creating a parenting plan and sorting out the finances can be done in only a few sessions.
- Do let your child’s school know what is going on. You child spends a lot of his/her waking time at school so he/she will need looking after there as much as at home. Also school will let you know of any behavioural changes that they may have noticed since the divorce.
- If you are concerned about your child’s experience and changes in behaviour, then do contact a professional who can help you continue parenting your child as you would like. It doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing this, on the contrary, it means that you are continuing to look after your child by getting you and him/her help so as to make them feel better.
Soila is the founder of The Divorce Magazine and creator of the five star rated online course – Helping Children Cope with Divorce
She is known for taking away the pain of trauma and loss in children, adolescents and their families and is the author of “When Love is Broken. A read-together book for children and parents going through divorce and separation.
Soila holds an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology from UCL (University College London), is an accredited Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) practitioner and a trained Family Mediator.
Soila is Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society.
You can contact her on 07850 85 60 66 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org