Tuesday, February 7, 2017
How to help my child cope with divorce
Young children and even teens are still very self-centered and we need to protect them from taking responsibility for our own decisions. A divorce will always affect your children and there is no way to avoid that, but you can turn it into a positive experience if you face this situation as an opportunity to teach them “How to embrace changes when we are very frightened?”. And you can also do long term protection by nurturing your “connection” with them, by strengthening their self-confidence.
To help your children deal with a separation or divorce, you can try the following:
1) Reinforce this is not their fault. For most children, it is easier to blame themselves than to blame their parents. As you both are the pillars for their self-confidence, if you are not explicit and consistent, they will unconsciously put the burden on their backs. For their young minds, it is a lot easier to process -“It is my fault”- than -“It is my parents’ fault”-. As we are their source of love, care, and tranquility, it is very hard for them to understand how could we possibly do something that hurt them. For this same reason, please try not to argue about anything related to your children when they can hear you. They will translate your arguments into: “I knew this was my fault. There are arguing because of me.”
2) Protect their self-confidence and self-esteem by not interfering in their relationship with the other parent. Your children need to have their own (unbiased) opinion from each of you. As they grow up, this is just part of the natural process of becoming more independent. The image they have from both of you will evolve little by little over the years to come. This process needs to be protected from any “unwanted interference” or “manipulation”.
Please be very careful not to make any negative comments about the other parent. It will only make your children be very frightened, and will also make them hold resentment towards you. Also, don’t let your good intentions to add any “decorations” to the plain truth: Don’t lie to protect them. Tell them the truth in their simple words when they ask. For example, if she asks: -“Where is Daddy?”-, you should answer: -“I don’t know. Why don’t you call him and ask him yourself?”-. If he asks: -“Why is Daddy….?”-, you should reply: -“I don’t know. Why don’t you call him and ask him…”-.
3) Control your anxiety. It won't help your children if you feel guilty. They will be more than OK if you both stay calmed and peaceful. Anxiety is what you should really strive to keep out of your lives. I encourage you to avoid “buying things” like candies or toys aiming to “compensate” what you may perceive as a loss for them. It is not. They will always have a Mommy and a Daddy, and you will both do better now that you are apart. You will be happier so your children will end up being happier too.
Even though it is natural for parents to have this “urge” to make it up to their children and buy things to make them smile, you will only be giving them the wrong message: “I feel sorry for you”. Your children don’t need you to teach them to feel sorry for themselves, they need you to teach her “How to embrace change when we feel frightened”.
4) Nurture your “connection” with your children. This is long-term protection. The “connection” we have with our children help them raise their self-confidence while strengthening our relationship with them. I encourage you to have a 20 minutes’ playtime session with each child, every day you have them with you. Turn off your phone and just play as if you were her (or his) age, without any rules. Let her (or him) be the boss. Don’t try to teach them anything, just play, observe them without being judgmental.