Don’t lead your child to believe “Dad’s away on business” or “Everything is going to be wonderful” Children are very perceptive. They know if a parent is trying to hide something, even if the purpose is to spare their feelings. Children need straight forward answers they can understand, without blame or making anyone wrong or bad.
All children in divorced families assume they may be responsible for their parents’ breakup. Children need to be gently reassured, repeatedly over the first couple of years, that divorce is an adult decision having nothing to do with them or their behavior.
Children have many questions, feelings, assumptions and concerns about divorce. Many parents find it difficult to just sit quietly and listen to their children talk without trying to interrupt with a “Fix-it” statement to help them feel better. Children need to feel heard with quiet patience and undivided attention.
Children can feel ashamed about this very normal wish. You can explain to your child that one divorced, it is very unlikely that people ever get back together, but their wish for reconciliation is very normal.
Many children hide their feelings of sadness, grief, anger or confusion because they are afraid expressing these feelings will upset their parents. Children need to know their feelings are acceptable.
This is a good way to learn of your child’s fears and assumptions about divorced parents, and gives you the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions and remind them that other children have gone through what they are now going through.
Don’t say anything about your ex in ear-shot of your child. Don’t have your child carry messages to your ex. Children need to be able to love both parents. If one parent is disapproving of affection a child expresses toward the other parent, the child will begin to withdraw, become dishonest or depressed.
Having your own supportive network can protect your child from becoming your confidant and feeling responsible for your emotional well-being. It can also give you a higher frustration tolerance for the normal everyday things kids do. Spend time with friends who will help feed your spiritual side. This is the time to feel loved and connected with those who care about you.
This will help you explain important facts to your child and help your child formulate questions they might otherwise not have words for. A wonderful interactive book to read with your child is "MY Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced," written by Dr. Lois Nightengale. (714) 993-5343
Many adults now acknowledge of a supportive professional as they face the challenges divorce inevitably brings. But many parents are unsure at what point their child may be exhibiting signs that indicate a need for professional counseling.
© 2004 Lois V. Nightengale, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, (714) 993-5343, Director of Nightengale Center in Yorba Linda, CA, Author of “My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re Getting Divorced”
© 1998 Dr. Lois V. Nightengale, Clinical Psychologist (lic.# PSY9503), Professional Speaker and director of the Nightengale Counseling Center in Yorba Linda, Ca. She is the author of several books, including "My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They’re getting Divorced."
Almost half the children in this country will experience the separation of their parents before they are 16 years old. For most children this is a very painful life defining experience. Our Children’s Divorce Workshop is a group experience for your child with other children who are “in the same boat” and is designed and supervised by licensed therapists to give them a safe place to get in touch with what they are feeling and to talk about it with others, Here is a video that could also help parents to address these consequences by giving the children guidance in sharing and discussing their lives. It may also be a good exercise for intact families to watch this video to help their children promote understanding and compassion of their friends divorce experiences. Personal experiences and feelings of children as the parents go through divorce, and then coping with two homes, are told in “SPLIT, A Film for Kids of Divorce (and their Parents),” a 30 minute documentary. It is a deeply personal film made in collaboration with children ages 6 to 12, exploring the often frightening and always life altering separations/divorces of their parents. http://www.splitfilm.org/