It’s a sad fact that almost half of all marriages end in divorce. To complicate the situation even further, many of these couples have children. During the divorce process, couples are preoccupied with property and financial division. The children’s emotional and physical well-being can sometimes be an afterthought, however the goal of any amicable separation should always be ‘what’s best for the kids’.
By following these tips writen by Angela Elia B. Beh. Sci. (Hons). MAPS, Psycologist at Alegna Solutions, you can take steps to ensure the transition is as peaceful as possible for your little ones.
- Firstly, it’s important to understand that children internalise the problems of the parents and family, and generally think it’s their fault. Spend time with your children and explain it’s not their fault and they are not to blame for grown up problems. It’s essential they understand this.
- Listen to your children. With changes such as new living arrangements and a new family dynamic, your children will undoubtedly have strong opinions and many questions for you and your partner. Start having open, age-appropriate conversations with your children about their thoughts and feelings. Communication provides an open forum for your children to express their needs and wants, rather than keeping them bottled up.
- Remember that children are very sensitive and absorb much more than we realise, particularly in situations of family conflict. So, rather than ignoring or sugar coating issues, explain what is happening in an age-appropriate, civil manner.
- Be honest with your children at all times. For instance, when explaining you are getting a divorce, tell the truth in a simple, direct way (i.e. “sometimes people grow apart, but we will always love you”). Try not to confuse children with long-winded explanations. Tell them you love them and that fact will never change, regardless of what happens between you and your partner. Prepare them for the changes to come by answering their questions sensitively and reminding them that you’ll deal with any change together.
- Try as you might, you will not be able to allay all of your children’s worries, so ensure you provide a reassuring, loving environment. Use your actions and words to assure your children of your unconditional love for them. Remind them that although physical circumstances have changed, both you and your partner will always be there for them. Use reassuring, soothing phrases like, “it will be okay” and “I will always love you”, to show your children that your feelings toward them won’t change.
- Consider providing children the opportunity to talk with someone outside the parents. Most children unconsciously do not know how to express themselves freely to one party whilst they still love the other.
On a practical level, ensure your children’s routine remains consistent. The familiarity of routines (i.e. consistent bedtimes, doing homework at the same time each night, etc.) helps children feel safe and secure, regardless of the circumstances around them. Sticking to a routine includes continuing to observe rules, discipline and rewards. For this reason, resist the urge to spoil your children, lest they favour one parent over the other.
Above all else, your children will feel at ease if you are calm and take care of yourself during the process. By regularly exercising, spending time with friends and family, and keeping a journal, your transition will be much smoother. Your children will observe this, and feel healthier and happier, as a result.
This post was written by Angela Elia, Psychologist at Alegna Solutions, Southport, QLD.