It’s not just parents that have trouble coping during a separation or divorce. Kids can find themselves isolated, suffering from anxiety and exposed to other mental health problems when having difficulty coping with the issues. As you might expect, good communication and understanding are really important at this time.
Making sure your children aren’t left out of the equation is difficult when the split is acrimonious. Setting ground rules and getting support will ensure that they aren’t exposed to bad situations any more than they have to be. You will no doubt have plenty of concerns. Your kids will be worried about what is going to happen and how this is going to affect them. Providing the stability and help they need at this time can be just as difficult for parents as trying to navigate the uncertainty of a divorce.
How to Talk to Your Children
We all know that communication is important. No matter how difficult things get with your partner, making sure that your children have the love and attention they need should be a priority. A lot of this involves talking to your children about the divorce in a non-judgmental and level headed manner. Reassurance, love and attention are key – being both verbally supportive and using non-verbal connections such as giving your child a hug when the need it as well as actually spending enough time with them.
Getting Your Kids to Express Their Feelings
The impact of a divorce on a child cannot be underestimated. It’s easy to think that things will quickly settle down but getting your kids to express their feelings ensures emotions don’t get bottled up. You will probably have difficulties yourself during this time but you do need to set time apart to focus on your children.
What Most Children Want
Most kids will want the divorce proceedings to stop and everything to return to normal. Generally, that’s not going to happen and the prospect of losing one parent or another can have a devastating effect. They want to make sure that a mom or dad is not going to disappear from their lives, that the arguing stops, that they shouldn’t be expected to take sides or be used as a bargaining chip. All these wants and needs have to be taken into account.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
It’s easy to blame your partner when you are going through a divorce or separation. It’s the simplest thing in the world to tell your child that it is all mom or dad’s fault. This can create a difficult situation for your children and is something you should avoid.
Of course, being honest about the divorce and what has actually happened will depend on the age of your kid and how much they are capable of understanding. Kids can also feel that they have something to do with the divorce and that may be amplified if the parents are blaming each other or, for instance, not spending enough time with them or missing special events like birthdays or sports days.
Maintaining Order During a Divorce
A divorce can certainly disrupt family life but you should try to maintain order and stability as much as possible. Creating and keeping to regular routines can help children feel more secure despite what is happening. This includes having regular meal times together and spending quality time with mom and dad, going to school and even minor things like reading their bedtime story. It’s not just younger kids that need this kind of security, older ones are as likely to crave the ordinary and cling onto those family rituals for comfort.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
While taking care of your children and guiding them through the minefield of divorce is important, so is looking after yourself. You will definitely have your own emotions and problems to overcome as the divorce proceeds. It can be easy to become isolated and to let your emotional and physical state suffer. Your kids will no doubt pick up on this and it can have an adverse effect on them too.
Make sure you try to stay healthy, take a break when you need it and talk to those around you who can lend a sympathetic ear. That means simple things like eating well, sleeping as best you can and getting exercise as well.
Support matters when we have difficult issues to overcome. Thankfully, there are plenty of sources that you can draw on and none of these should be out of bounds. These include:
Mental Health Issues and Your Kids
While you may do your best to lessen the impact of a divorce or separation, the effect on your child can still have consequences for their mental health. Some manage to cope remarkably easily, others will struggle with issues such as anxiety and even depression. It’s important to keep an eye out for these and to have access to the right resources to deal with them.
Most kids will show some sort of emotion that can equate an issue with mental health. It’s when these symptoms persist that you may want to find extra support. There are certain red flags that your kids may show that indicate they are having trouble coping:
When things don’t seem to be getting any better and you are increasingly worried, finding professional help is key. Don’t hope for the best and think that all this will go away if you give your child enough time. They may have key issues that they need to talk through with someone independent and experienced in dealing with child mental health. Early intervention will ensure that your child gets the support they need to cope with this traumatic event and come to terms with it.
Yes, it is difficult going through a divorce or separation. It can be highly emotional and severely damaging. Protecting your children from the bulk of this and helping them come through on the other side ideally requires both parents to have a more objective approach. This can often be difficult but it is something you should both work towards. Get the support you need and make decisions in the best interest of your child and the family unit.