Divorce, by itself, is a stressful and unsettling event. But while you may be grappling with your own emotional turmoil, it is also important to understand the “children and divorce” linkage.
Divorce effects on children may range from stress and sadness to difficulty in understanding and accepting the loss.
When you are yourself undergoing extreme emotional pain, it is easy to underrate your children’s feelings. To them, it may feel like the loss of a parent and so many other things that was synonymous with life and living. They may feel enraged at you for shattering their normal life or they may feel that they are responsible for everything. Whatever their reactions to the event, it is important to acknowledge them and address your children’s needs.
They need your unconditional love and support- and a reassurance that they continue to be as important to you both, as they were earlier. Here’s how you can help your children deal with divorce.
When to talk about it
It is best to talk about it before any concrete changes such as a change in accommodation etc. take place.
What to talk- How much to tell
If you are anxious yourself, anticipate uncomfortable questions and prepare yourself to face them. As far as possible, both parents must present consistent explanations for the event. Tell them about the changes in their living arrangements, school or activities but don’t confuse them with too many details.
Also keep the age factor in mind. While younger children need less details, older kids may need more explanation.
How to talk about it- prepare in advance, avoid blaming
Be honest with your kids. But avoid blaming. Refrain from talking too much about your spouse’s bad behavior. If there’s nothing good to say, better not say anything at all. Speaking negatively about your spouse puts your kids in a spot- they feel they must take sides, and that’s a very difficult situation for them.
Acknowledge your children’s emotions and feelings
Help them express their feelings
Your children may be bombarded with a volley of questions and emotions. Listen to them. Help them express their true feelings. Many times children refrain from voicing their emotions for fear of hurting you. Let them know whatever they say is ok. DON’T dismiss their feelings. Many times children may seem to understand at one time, and then again come up with questions. Be patient and reassuring.
Reassure them time and again that you continue to love them as before, they are as important as before and they are not responsible for whatever is happening.
In the aftermath of your divorce
Provide stability and structure
Children adjust best if they are provided with a structure- it ensures security and stability. Knowing that bath follows dinner at both homes or homework follows bath helps them to maintain order in their lives.
Try to develop cordial relations with your ex
Don’t fight or quarrel in front of your kids, in person or over the phone. Try to set amicable relations asap. After all, your child needs to have healthy relations with both parents to avoid disastrous divorce effects later in life.
Finally, take care of yourself and, if you find your child’s reactions worsen with time or become self-destructive, get professional help.