Even if a divorce is amicable and mutually agreed-upon, the children become particularly vulnerable.
Seeing their parents break up brings major trauma. All children, somewhere deep inside, wish that everyone would stay together in a perfect world. When that doesn’t happen, there’s a shattering that must be addressed. The pieces of valuable lives must put back together with sensitivity and care.
Some helpful things to remember while navigating these vulnerable and often gut-wrenching times:
● Your children will have strong feelings about the breakup. Take the time to sit and talk with them about those feelings.
● Be mindful of letting your children express themselves. Never tell them to suppress their feelings. This is an emotional time and the youngsters’ feelings are normal.
● Give age-appropriate responses to your child’s questions and expression of feelings. Do not over-explain. Sometimes less is more.
● Be careful not to speak negatively about the other parent. Your children are part of you. Therefore anything you say that is bad or negative about their mom or dad will be interpreted by children that there is something wrong with them, too.
● Understand that the children’s change is a process too — some days they will feel better than others. Children need time to accept and accommodate change.
● Give yourself, as a parent, compassion for the change. This is a stressful time in which tempers run high and fuses burn short. Remember: This too shall pass.
● In the best interest of your child, try to settle as much of your divorce with a mediator. Seek therapeutic help to manage and regulate your emotions for the sake of your child. Remember, parents need help too! Here’s a detailed look at parenting during divorce with your former partner.
● Your children are watching you carefully at this time; their survival and security are dependent on your emotional and psychological stability. Ensure that your words and deeds match up.
● Be slow to introduce new girlfriends or boyfriends into your life. Your children are in an upheaval; they can only handle so much. Keep a new relationship on your own time — at least until it becomes serious — and then and only then slowly introduce them to your children.
● Spend quality time with your children instead of buying them “things” in an attempt to ease your feelings of guilt about what they’ve gone through. The time you take to listen to the kids and validate their experiences is golden. They will remember those moments more than anything else.
● Everyone has to grieve before moving on. It’s OK to cry one day and feel OK the next.
● Take time for yourself. Just like on an airplane, put the oxygen mask on first, so you are able to take care of your child. Manage your own stress in small nurturing ways throughout the day.
It is about the process, the journey. The essential relationship between yourself and your child. This is what counts the most during any major life change, and in all the minor ones in between.