Even though the number of divorces has fallen in the US over the past 10 years, the topic still remains a very slippery and uncomfortable one. And the case gets even worse when married couples pull their children into the quarrels and property divisions which accompany divorce processes. This leads to higher stress levels and increased divorce trauma rates among children and especially older ones. However, divorce lawyers say that there is no need to make splitting up process so complicated and tense, there are few ways to protect your kids from the psychological trauma.
How to help kids cope with divorce trauma?
Kids are little adults. What they might not understand is fully compensated by the inner feeling. One of the fundamental ideas of a “successful” and peaceful separation with the minimal divorce trauma for children is to treat them as adults. Don’t try to hide the truth or cover it with some softer words. No, this will only increase the level of distrust to you personally and might develop into misdemeanor and renunciation in the future. Talk with your children and go through this complex period together.
Here are a couple of rules that every divorcing parent has to bear in mind.
- Honesty. As mentioned above, communication with your children is the only way to stay connected. Tell them truthfully about the situation and see them as personalities who have the right to know. Hiding such big news behind their backs is literally a crime.
- Legitimization. Every human being has the right to feel angry, lost, or disappointed. And so do your kids. The essential matter is to legitimize these feelings and demonstrate that you see and understand the possible divorce trauma that your kids experience. Again, if you try to live as if nothing happens, you are likely to dig a huge abyss between yourself and your children. Accept their feelings and tell that you understand them.
- Cope together. Cry together, do some therapeutical activities together, basically anything to show that you do care. Be ready that children, especially smaller ones, won’t be able to verbalize their desires so look for the clues to make them feel better. However, beware of bribery that frequently takes place in such situations.
- Stay strong visually and inside. There is no worse sign of something bad for a child than a parent who looks bad, feels bad, and literally smells bad. Yes, divorce is a stressful time. Top it with financial disputes, custody issues, and property division, and you get a perfect cocktail for depression. Now you read it all and should never ever give in to it. Your goal is to stay strong, learn to manage your stress and not show it to your family members. Continue going to the gym, swimming, keeping your diet, or riding a bicycle. The more traditional routines you’ll stick to, the easier you’ll get through the divorce trauma and the whole process of separation. You have no right to fall apart because there are people who depend on you.
- Take the high road. No matter at what point you and your partner decided to split up it should never influence the kids. You might hate each other, but keeping your face and civilized manner of interaction in front of small kids is essential. Always remember that every child needs both parents to be present in their life, so don’t even think of blame-shaming your ex-spouse. Don’t try to say bad things about them since it might work the other way round.
- Get help. Not all children are able to go through their parents’ divorce without help. Many end up with a divorce trauma till the rest of their life. Some find it at their friends’, others dive into hobbies. However, in the worst case scenario, they become uncontrollable and may even turn to the forbidden substances. If you suspect that the divorce might be too heavy for your child, then think in advance about getting professional help for them. It might not be an easy service to look for, so remember that most divorce lawyers have good contacts with psychotherapists for both parents and children.
- Adjust to the new circumstances together. Yes, some basic routine elements will have to be changed. For example, a mother won’t cook the breakfast, or a father won’t lift the kids to school on the way to work. These minor and yet major nuances have to be accounted for in the new life. Keep in mind that you as a parent need to set the tone for keeping it up and together to have a positive influence on your children. Think about how to reorganize your life and ensure that everything stays as much usual and habitual for kids as possible. Staying on schedule at all times will help you get the simplicity of life back for everyone.
- Be patient. Everyone will need some time to adjust to the new life and the new order. So if a kid forgets to wash the dishes or brush their hair – don’t instantly burst out. Give them time for accommodation and stay as patient as possible. Keeping temper is the only way to get through the acclimatization process together with ease.
Divorce can be tough. No one is trying to argue it. But keep it together as a family because there is no better support that the closest people around you – your kids.