7 Tips To Help Your Child With Separation and Divorce

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How To Parent Through Separation And Divorce

BY EMMA BOLES

Separation and divorce are extremely difficult and stressful for families. Although some kids will adjust well, others can experience emotional or behavioural difficulties. Often parents will be understandably preoccupied with managing the practical aspects of parenting when going through a separation, but it is also important to be mindful of your child’s emotional needs. Children need a secure emotional base after their parents separate (just like they did before). Here are our top tips for supporting kids through separation and divorce.

Help your child cope with divorce, don't let them get caught in the crossfire

Help your child cope with divorce, don’t let them get caught in the crossfire

Tip #1: Validate Your Childs Feelings

Recognize and validate how your child feels. Kids can find it hard to tell you how they feel, so look for behaviour changes that might indicate that your child is not coping (e.g. changes in sleeping or appetite, stomach aches or headaches, challenging behaviours, clinginess). If you child is misbehaving remember they’re not being “bad”, they’re struggling to deal with the changes in their family. Help express with words what they’re really upset about.

Tip #2: Spend Time With Your Child

Engaging in activities with your child, one-on-one, will help to maintain a strong bond between you, and give the message to your child that although the family is changing, you will still be there for them. Reassure them by telling them they will still spend lots of time with Mum and Dad.

Tip #3: Tell Your Child You Love Them

At a time of uncertainty, communication is crucial in helping your child feel emotionally supported. Talk to your child about divorce in language they can understand. Prepare them as much as possible for changes that will be occurring, by talking to them about what will be happening next. Most importantly, reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault, and that Mum and Dad still love them.

Tip #4: Create a Predictable Routine

When going through times of change, children cope better when they have a stable routine and a sense of predictability. Come up with a routine that everyone agrees on, and stick to it. If you have younger children, make a visual reminder (such as a chart or poster) so that your child is never in doubt of where they are staying.

Tip #5: Keep Setting Limits and Boundaries

Children need firm and loving limits in order to feel safe and in control. Boundaries and discipline are still as important as they were before. Being consistent with your child will help them to feel more secure.

Tip #6: Protect Your Child From Conflict

Avoid speaking negatively about your husband or wife. Don’t place your child in the middle, as this can cause them more distress.

Tip #7: Look After Yourself

At an undoubtedly stressful time, make sure you have support for yourself. Reach out to family and friends, or seek support from a clinical psychologist. If you are feeling more in control, this will have a positive effect on your kids.

Emma Boles is a Clinical Psychologist Registrar who enjoys working with children, young people, families, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, stress, self-esteem, perfectionism, and other life issues.