During the course of the divorce you may need to give your children more affection at different times. Kids may become more physically needy during the initial stages of a divorce, or become more emotional during this time frame.
We have given some great information this week on helping your children to cope with divorce. It is very important to go back and read the previous blogs- they are FULL of information and it builds on each other. Today I want to focus on the child's feelings and how important it is to reassure them. Make sure you allow them to talk about their feelings. It is very important for you to offer a forum for your kids to be real and honest with you about how they feel with all the changes going on around them. Make sure you give them permission to be sad, angry, hurt, or betrayed. Don't get defensive if they are upset with you. Validate their emotions with phrases like: "I know this is hard for you. You can tell me more if you like". Don't try to "fix" them or talk them out of their feelings. Just let them feel them (part of their grieving process) and talk about them. Don't make it about YOU! Many parents will use this as an opportunity to start sharing their pain as well. This is not appropriate. Your child needs you to focus on them and what they are feeling. When they are done telling you their feelings, then ask them, "Is there anything you need from me? I am here if you do." This lets them know you are open to hearing more if they would like to talk.
Reassure your child. Don't assume that your child "knows" you love them. They might not trust what they know anymore because everything is totally changing. What they once thought they knew (Mom and Dad will always be together) they can no longer trust. So they may question your love for them as well. Tell your child several times a day that you love them and will be there for them. This could be in multiple ways besides just verbally- leaving notes, spending quality time with them etc. However they receive love is good, as well as reassuring verbally. Stay involved in their life. Don't avoid your child's activities for fear of seeing your ex. Your child will be the one that suffers if you do.
It can be very difficult to navigate thru all this. It may feel overwhelming on top of being overwhelmed with your own grief. Remember, you will not be perfect. If you make a mistake, learn from it, apologize, and move forward.
Tomorrow Joleen will help with more tips as well as some great book recommendations. If you are going thru a divorce, and you feel too overwhelmed, give us a call. We all are experts in divorce recovery for adults and children. Thank you for reading!
Written by Natalie Chandler
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville
Teri & Alexa have done an excellent job preparing a parent for how to tell a child they're divorcing. Now, let's discuss what you as a parent should do once the information has been shared and you've started the divorce process. Keep the adult information and decisions for adults only- It's a slippery slope to talk with your children about all the details of the divorce. Sharing too much with them can cause anxiety and confusion inside of a child. This includes not fighting with your ex around your child. Remember, your child has to carry whatever information they have seen or heard. More information than necessary can cause them to feel they are "growing up too fast" or that they are losing a piece of their childhood. Allow your kids to be kids and don't burden them with all of YOUR issues. They should not be your support system.
Keep your negative comments to yourself- You divorced your spouse for a reason, but it is not necessary for you to share those reasons with your child! That is their parent and they are literally 50% of your child. That is part of who they are, like it or not. Hating your ex could equal (in your child's mind) that you hate your child too.
Be aware of feelings of divided loyalty-Often times kids will feel torn between parents. They may struggle if they had a great time at dad's house for the weekend, but may not want to tell mom about it because they don't want her to be hurt or left out. Even if it is hard for you to hear these types of things, it is important for you to encourage your child to be open about the good and bad of what goes on at the other parent's home. Your reaction to this is vital. If you make a face, sigh, or criticize, it will only tell your child to keep secrets from you and could create an emotionally unsafe environment.
It is so important to make sure children transition as smooth as possible during a divorce. As Teri and Alexa discussed previously, all children are affected by divorce. Some things are uncontrollable and going to happen as a natural result of divorce. However, these tips are things that you do have power over and will help them feel safe & secure throughout this very difficult time.
Thank you for reading, please check back in as Natalie will go over more tips and Joleen will wrap us up with some great resources!
Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.