7 Suggestions to Minimize the Effects of Divorce on Children
By Bellevue Christian counseling
Divorce affects about half of the families in America. After you give your children the initial news, there is a whole grieving process that your child will go through which may last months or years. As you watch your child process, you may worry about the effects of divorce on your child. Here are some ways that you can support your child during a divorce:
1. Plan one on one time. Children will probably need extra attention and affection during this time. Scheduling one on one time with each child allows them to have your full attention and feel comfortable to ask questions that might be on their mind. It also allows them to know that you are going to be there with them as you create a new way of life for your family.
2. Give age appropriate and honest answers. Your family has changed and your children need to be aware of what is going on in a way that they can understand. It’s important to be truthful and diplomatic. As your child asks questions, give answers that will make sense for their developmental level. Children will often ask more questions as they get more information. It’s important to give your child information because they are insightful and can pick up on tension that is going on in the family. Children will find their own answers to the situation if they are not given information about what is going on. So it’s important to have open conversations, as well as give them space to ask questions in order to give them correct information.
3. Understand that children grieve in chunks based on their developmental age. As they reach a new developmental stage, their understanding of the divorce will change and may bring up new feelings, thoughts or questions. Even if the divorce was a couple of years ago, it may affect the child in new ways as they mature and reach new developmental milestones. Be on the lookout for this and create space for your child to continue the conversation about the divorce.
4. Watch for your child’s feelings. Children have a limited vocabulary to express their feelings. As a parent, you can model emotions for your child and name emotions that you see them displaying. There are also several children’s books that you can read with your child that could be helpful in talking to your child about divorce. A couple of suggestions are Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown and Was it the Chocolate Pudding? By Sandra Levins & Bryan Langdo.
5. Pay attention to your child’s behavior. Your child may regress or mature during this time in reaction to the news. For example, if your child was potty training prior to the news of the divorce, they may stop wanting to use the toilet. Be patient with your child if this happens and offer them extra support. Or your child may be extra watchful of you and try to be a caretaker. If this is the case, remind your child of your role as the parent and their role as the child.
6. Create a predictable routine. Children need routine especially in the midst of a divorce where major changes are happening in their family. It might help to post the daily or weekly schedule in the kitchen or in the child’s room.
7. Seek out support for yourself. One of the best ways that you can care for your children during this time of transition is to care for yourself. Make sure that you seek support from family, friends and those around you. Individual counseling can be one way to get that, as it will give you space to process the situation.
If you feel like your child is struggling and could benefit from additional support, Christian counseling may be a great option. Counseling for your child can be a great resource to work through questions and confusion about what is going on in the family. A counselor can be another adult that is providing support for your child and would help them work through questions without expectations.
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