Separation Anxiety: 5 Ways to Help Your Children Cope With Divorce
The following post appeared earlier this month on the South Carolina Family Law Blog. I thought these were some great thoughts for divorcing parents to keep in mind:
While divorce proceedings may pose a great burden upon parents, they often have a disproportionate affect upon children, who may not fully understand the process. Parental separation can fundamentally shift a child's nascent world view, requiring careful steps to ensure that children are able to soundly cope with the divorce. Although the divorce itself might emerge from personal issues unrelated to children, it is crucial that parents remain focused upon helping children transition during the process:
- Encourage open communication from your children. Although the complete scope of the process might immediately escape children, it's important that you take time to allow a child to express his or her feelings about the event. This is a way in which you can both come to understand outside viewpoints, as well as providing you with an opportunity to reach and explain the situation in a manner that resonates with the child. If you have multiple children, it's important to speak to them both individually and collectively, as each child is likely to have a different, personal response to the events unfolding, depending on their age and personality.
- Ensure that all children have a stable social safety net throughout the process. Since the fundamental role of the family is to provide a safe setting in which children can learn and grow, it's important that one continue to provide this level of support even during parental separation. Ensure that children are in a safe environment and remain outside any legal or argumentative environments that might surround the divorce; if you understand with your spouse around children, remain friendly and amicable, independent of your internal feelings. Always reach out to your broader, extended social network so that children feel comfortable – allow them to spend time with friends, relatives and counselors so that they have feelings of stability in spite of the changes around them.
- Maintain continuity in your own personal life so that you can remain a strong parent. In order to help children cope with a divorce, it's important that one ensure stability in all facets of life, from work to friendships. By maintaining an equilibrium in your life, you can ensure that you'll bring a balanced approach to keeping your life in order so that you can remain strong for your children. It may be beneficial to spend time with a counselor so that you can work through any anxiety or feelings that you have, in order to ensure a proper outlet for those emotions; while it's okay to express yourself around children, one should also ensure that emotions are kept in check and expressed in a structured fashion so children feel comfortable. In order to help children remain strong during a divorce, each parent has to be strong independently.
- Keep legal challenges outside of the child's daily life. Although court proceedings are a core part of any divorce, children should not have to grasp the details of the legal fight. Instead, keep the legal details separate from your relationship with your children. When working out a legal settlement, always keep the best interests of your children in mind, as those considerations should trump any financial or situational disputes that might arise in the proceedings. Even during the direct divorce proceedings, ensure that you have enough time to devote to nurturing and taking care of your children.
- Allow children an expressive outlet to ensure their lives are well-balanced. While no divorce is fun for children, it's important to ensure that children continue to have elements of joy in their life, from celebrating parties with friends to enjoying time off from school on the weekends. Take time away from the bustle of daily life to take your children to a park or to a nice dinner out with relatives so that they can continue to find enjoyment in life, in spite of the larger situation.
Thanks to the South Carolina Family Law Blog for this post.