Helping Kids Survive and Thrive Through a Divorce: 7 Ways
While it’s easier said than done, there are some ways to help kids cope with your divorce. You may not be able to follow all of these tips, due to your own unique circumstances, but you may be able to pick a few. That can make a huge difference for kids. Every effort you put forth to support your child and make their needs a priority will pay dividends in their future well-being.
Home Sweet Home
You can do yourself and your children a huge favor if you are able to keep some elements the same during and after your divorce. If possible, one parent should remain in the family home with them. This way they aren’t being uprooted from everything they know. Financially, this scenario isn’t always possible and a move is inevitable.
If your children are school aged, it is best if you can keep them in that school. If circumstances beyond your control dictate that both parents move, try to arrange it so that they can remain in the same school district.
Divorce brings about multiple changes and it is a challenge for children to deal with multiple transitions at one time (the same goes for you). Try to limit as many changes as you can during the divorce, so that your children can hold on to the pieces of stability that are left for them.
It can get tricky where family and friends are involved. While it may be unnerving for you to help the kids keep a relationship with your ex’s side, it is important to do so. There may be times when you find yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to help your kids maintain contact with important people in their lives. Keep in mind that awkwardness wears off over time, and relationships with family are worth it!
If you have family rituals then they should continue. For example if you all watch a movie and eat popcorn on Friday nights that should be a part of the plan. While they will miss the other parent joining in, they will adjust to it. Kids can cope better if they see that some things remain the same, even if some elements of it have changed.
If your spouse always took the children out for ice cream on Sunday afternoons, they should continue to do so. You have no idea how much children look forward to these various rituals at home. There are plenty of memories involved in them and you don’t want to remove all of that due to the divorce.
Start Something New
You can also ask them about new traditions and rituals they may want to try. This can be as good of a time as any for some new and fun things to come into their life. These can be memories they make with you and their siblings that aren’t associated with the other parent. They can do the same when they are with that parent as well.
Kid Problems vs. Adult Problems
This is the biggie…and the number one complaint (along with parents engaging in open conflict in front of the children) of kids I have seen in my practice over the past 25+ years. Stay hyper-focused on keeping adult problems to the adults. The beef you have with your ex, finances, frustrations with drop-off and pick-up, choices the other parent makes…all of that and more are NOT things to discuss in front of the kids no matter how upset you are about them. Keep these thoughts to yourself and share them with a friend, family member or therapist. Kids have enough worries of their own: grades, dealing with peers and coping with the divorce, just to name a few. When the aforementioned adult problems are imposed upon children, it truly complicates things for them and magnifies everything.
Love 'Em Up
A big transition like divorce can drum up lots of anxiety over the unknown for kids. This is the time to love 'em up and provide them with plenty of physical hugs and snuggles, along with verbal reminders of your love. A word of caution, lavishing gifts and providing extravagant toys and doodads because you feel bad about your child's feelings will NOT help your child. Your child needs an emotional connection to you and your ex, and needs to know how much he or she is loved. Material goods can never convey that to children. Set loving limits and help kids express their feelings to make the transition as smooth as possible. BLOOM can assist you greatly in this process and it would be helpful for both parents to adopt this supportive parenting stance that helps kids build skills. This is never more important than when kids are experiencing anxiety, challenges and upset.
A divorce is very difficult on children so parents have to do their part to make it as easy as possible. Do your very best to keep some elements of their life the same as they were before. Clearly, it won’t be possible to do so with everything but do what you can. All this will go a long ways towards helping your children adjust best to the new transitions that are present in every divorce.
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