By Chautè Thompson, LMHC, CDWF
Divorce affects the entire family, but so does remaining in a home of discord and disconnect. It is important for you to recognize ways you can help your children through this difficult time while you help yourself. Children experience a great deal of anxiety when they are dealing with the tension of their parents’ relationship; the two people they love the most. Tension can be felt in the atmosphere, it can be experienced through conflictual interactions (verbal and nonverbal), and it can leave children confused, anxious and sad. As you begin your healing journey, you can empower your children to overcome the difficulties involved and heal as well. Today I will share 6 ways that you can do this.
Provide age appropriate discussion about the divorce
Children are quick to think the separation is their fault. Sit with your children and explain the concept of marriage and breakups, helping them to understand the decision is solely regarding mommy and daddy. Be sure not to overwhelm children with information that isn’t kid-friendly. Here’s an example of what you can say: “We got married because we wanted to spend the rest of our life together, but we now see that it’s best for us not to be together anymore even though we care about each other. We both still love you very much.”
Have a clear, consistent schedule
Explain and provide a visual explanation for your children to see and know the schedule. Knowing the schedule reduces anxiety and helps children prepare themselves mentally and physically to be in each of their homes.
Encourage open dialogue with your children
The emotional rollercoaster is happening for them as much as it is for you. Initiate conversations where you have teachable moments about understanding their emotions. You can model language such as, “I feel sad,” “I am mad,” “I don’t like divorce,” and you can help them find healthy ways to cope with their emotions (i.e. drawing, coloring, writing, watching a favorite show, going for a walk/bike ride). Have emotional check-ins with your children. Help them to understand that it is natural to experience a variety of emotions.
Positive energy over everything
Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent to your children and/or around your children. This can be challenging but it negatively impacts children when they see, hear or feel the two people they love the most in the whole world at odds with each other.
Create family time
Develop a regular routine for special family time. This is something for your children to look forward to, and it will create a bond with everyone involved. Doing this will contribute to your children feeling loved and secure. To start, write a list of activities each family member enjoys. Each week pick something from the list randomly to do as a family.
Having a healthy outlet to openly discuss and understand emotions aids in healing. Therapy provides an environment where children can express their hurt and confusion as well as gain clarity and coping skills. Working with a professional as a parent can also be beneficial as this transition can bring about behaviors in children which are difficult to navigate alone.
Divorce is traumatic for everyone involved but providing a loving, stable, calm environment in each home will contribute to resilient children. Although this is a challenging time, you can get through this.
If you need a little more encouragement, read our post Finding Strength After Divorce.
Chautè Thompson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and a Qualified Parenting Coordinator in the State of Florida. Ms. Thompson has worked for over 18 years as a helping professional. She is currently the owner and primary clinician of Inspiring Hope Counseling Services, LLC. The emphasis of her practice is Strengthening the Family Unit which enables her to assist individuals, couples, families and schools at every level of supporting families’ ability to thrive with the mission of affording them inspiration, hope, health and healing. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling specializing in forensics.
Ms. Thompson is an author, speaker and the Founder of Brand New Me, LLC a business geared towards providing resources through webinars, books, retreats, conferences, churches and coaching services enabling individuals to GROW past the pain of divorce and life transitions rediscovering and redefining themselves. Connect with her on her website.