Worried About Your Kids?
3 Ways To Help Your Kids Cope
If you’re going through or have gone through a divorce, we don’t have to tell you about the whole range of emotions that can come up. There could be some relief and excitement about the new life ahead which might be experienced right alongside anger, fear, and grief. The mix of feelings can be confusing to say the least. Imagine what’s going on for your children (if you have them) where divorce is happening or has happened.
As the parent who is not only going through the divorce, but also wants to help his or her children with whatever they are feeling, it can be a tough juggling act. Even in the happiest of times, kids often look to their parents for support and stability in their ever-changing lives.Many divorced parents try to be it all for their kids — strong and resilient when, inside, they are falling apart! How can you continue to be the great parent you are to your kids while also giving yourself the nurturing love and space you need to adjust to this big life transition?
Michelle’s divorce from Ted became final last week. The finality of their ended marriage feels like relief but also deep sadness to Michelle who has primary custody of their 6 year old daughter Janey. It’s been a tough year but Michelle feels like her new life is just about to come together.For Janey, however, things don’t seem to be improving. Janey tends to vacillate between terror and rage both at home and at school. Michelle has worked hard during and after the divorce to keep Janey out of the fray of hurtful words and actions between she and Ted “ and there have been plenty of those. She’s always answered Janey’s questions about Ted and the divorce quickly and then moved on to a more pleasant topic. Michelle feels like she can’t really settle into this new life with Janey so off-kilter but doesn’t know what to do.
1. Self-care comes first.
No matter how upset your child may be, you have got to take care of yourself first. This may be an uncomfortable sentence for you to read as many of us hold the belief that our kids always come first.Your intentions to comfort your child may be heart-felt and wonderful but they won’t play out the way you intend if you are neglecting yourself and falling apart inside.Children are very perceptive and can sense that all is not right in their world even if you are verbally telling them otherwise.
Set aside regular time for yourself.This doesn’t have to mean you will always dive into those difficult feelings around the divorce. It may mean you treat yourself to a bubble bath, take time to read an uplifting book or just sit quietly in meditation or prayer. Perhaps your child could go to bed half an hour earlier than he or she used to or have daily quiet play time alone in his or her room.This alone-time can be helpful to your child as well as for you.
2. Allow yourself to receive support.
Even if your child cannot be left alone or unattended — or doesn’t want to be left alone in his or her room to play — you can still create self-care time. Let yourself receive the support and help of trusted relatives and friends. Your children will probably enjoy periodic outings with grandma even more than the usual routine with you! Friends can also be great feelings processors for kids. While they may not delve into emotions the way you might, when your child is with friends he or she can creatively play out what’s going on.
Janey’s school troubles involve lashing out angrily at friends. Her teacher is quite concerned as Janey was never aggressive or hurtful in the past. Michelle found a great art therapist for Janey to work with who is helping her process and channel her conflicting emotions into art and play.
3. Listen with love.
One of Michelle’s biggest fears throughout the divorce is that Janey would be exposed to the ugliness of her breakup with Ted. This fear has fueled her practice of talking a little as possible about the divorce with their daughter.Unfortunately, this has also meant that Janey has a lot of questions that are not being fully answered and a lot of feelings that are not being listened to.
You don’t have to offer your children solutions, fixes or cures for what they are feeling.What you can do for them is to listen with love. Keep your mind and your responses rooted in how much you care for your children and away from blame or guilt (directed at you or your ex). You can answer your children honestly and set boundaries if you are uncomfortable talking about particular subjects.But do listen to them and let them say what they need to say.
Divorce can be a huge change for everyone involved.Each person in the family moving into separate but new lives deserves love, care and attention “ especially you!