Children and Divorce
Every separation and /or divorce has an effect on the children. Children’s reactions are dependent on their age and stage of life, their particular personality makeup and the circumstances of the separation and/or divorce. Divorce is, often, very difficult for children, however, if handled appropriately, children can become better able to cope with stress.
Parents can make it easier for their children by working together cooperatively, by limiting conflict in the presence of their children, by not blaming the other spouse, by being honest, patient and sensitive to their children and working towards their children being “just kids”. It takes a conscious effort by parents to achieve these goals.
Children need to know that both parents love them. They need to know that divorce is an issue between their parents and not their fault. They need to know they will be taken care of, physically and emotionally, as before. Parents must be cognizant of their children’s needs and put those needs first.
Both parents are important to children. A child who feels abandoned by a parent often feels intense rejection which can be harmful to his/her continuing development. The frustrations and disagreements along the way can be difficult for parents. However, it is important to look at the big picture or the long term goals for your children’s physical and mental health. Work to put your feelings aside and decide what is best for your children.
Maintain the stability of your home, by having routines, by being reassuring and positive. Encourage your children to maintain their friendships and activities, work toward keeping to the routine, let them know it is all right to have fun, let them know that their feelings are normal and it is all right to talk about them with you.
Divorce is a loss for families and encompasses major change. It is the loss of the family as it was – and usually encompasses additional losses. Children, as well as, adults need to be allowed the chance to grieve. Sadness, anger and fear are normal feelings. Encourage your children to share their feelings with you. Acknowledge them when they speak. Even if the emotions are difficult to hear, acknowledge what you are hearing and continue to listen. Expressing those feelings is a positive direction to helping them begin to resolve the grief. Make the opportunity an ongoing happening as there may be different feelings, thoughts and questions as time goes on and as the child grows older.
These can be tall orders when you’re not at your best. However, it is important to work at being aware of your feelings and your behaviour toward your children. It is important to have supportive family and friend(s) with whom you can confide. It is, also, valuable for children to spend time with relatives and friends who maintain neutrality regarding the divorce. They can add to the children’s emotional security.
Consider whether you may need professional help for yourself and/or for your children. At Bayridge Family Center, we have therapists who have expertise in this area. A therapist can help you sort out whether you and/or your children might need help. That help can be provided in a supportive, safe environment where you and/or your family can work toward health and wellness.
Donna Burtis, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Therapist/Counsellor – Children dealing with trauma, depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD,
and adults dealing with partner abuse and/or childhood sexual abuse