a family finds itself in the middle of a separation
or divorce, one of the first worries is "what
about the children?" Research has shown that
while divorce can be hard on children, its often
the fighting of the parents that most directly
effects the children, and the impact depends on
how well the parents are able to isolate the children
from these disruptions.
Many psychologists and other therapists have tips
and suggestions on how best to help your children
at times like these. One organization that provides
a very good pamphlet and other information is
the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
Parenting is a lifelong job, and remember, you
do not divorce your children. The following ideas
are 7 tips to keep in mind to help buffer your
children from the real and imagined problems they
face during parental separation and or divorce:
First and foremost, try to maintain consistency.
Children going through separation and divorce
need a lot of stability to anchor them during
the stressful times of the early stages. Change
as little as possible, especially at first. Do
not alter the way you discipline and reward your
child. Keep the routines the same (bedtimes, meals).
Children feel safest when things are familiar.
Another important point is that tough times are
the best times to be more affectionate. A few
extra hugs are just what the doctor ordered for
times like these. Be careful, of course, not to
overdo this, but a little more affection can make
a big difference to children who are feeling scared
It is nevertheless, equally important to avoid
letting your children take care of you, no matter
how much you need the hugs too. Many children
try to act like adults and want to help and comfort
their parents, who they can see are in more distress
than usual. That is not their job. Its hard enough
to be a child at times like these, so don't treat
them like an adult. Do the children a favor and
keep the parental and child roles distinct and
Help your children to stay connected. You should
support your children's friendships and activities.
Changing schools and day care is a bad idea, if
its possible to avoid it. Often schools will make
a residency exception in cases of separation,
ask your psychologist or counselor to help with
that. Even if you must move to a distant neighborhood
and school district, make an effort to have sleep
overs and play dates with their old friends, and
encourage new friendships too.
Reassure your children about the basic necessities.
Your children need to hear that both parents still
love them and that the problems aren't their fault.
Parents are often surprised to learn that when
the parents fight about who gets to sleep where,
the children worry that they too may have to sleep
in the car. Children know when parents are feeling
economically stressed, and even a well to do child
may well be worried that there wont be enough
food or clothes. If you can honestly tell them
that food shelter and clothes wont be a problem,
then tell them sooner rather than later.
Of course you need to spare the children exposure
to fighting. Have your disagreements well out
of earshot, and remember that kids are experts
at listening in. Do not make your children take
sides, or act as a go between, or messenger in
your disagreements. Do not quiz them about your
ex-spouse you have a telephone and you can ask
your self, if you really need to know).
Finally, one of the most important things you
can do for your children, is to take good care
of your self. Your children need you now more
than ever, to stay healthy. Eat, sleep, and exercise
well. Do not isolate your self- spend plenty of
time with old and new friends who can be supportive.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, or if depression,
anxiety, anger and such persist, consider getting
help from a therapist or support group. Family
therapy can be helpful at time like these as well.
to The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic