Updated: Oct 31, 2022
There is a saying that goes "Your children are only as happy as your marriage". The best thing you can give your children is a happy relationship between you and your partner. However, most of us that get married don't go into our marriages thinking about it ending. Life can be cruel and create circumstances that change the dynamic of our relationship. If you've decided to end your marriage, we understand that it was a difficult and painful decision to make.
For your children, this is a big and significant change that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It may very well shape how they view marriage and one day raising a family of their own. But it does not have to be all doom and gloom. Studies that have compared children of divorced parents who faced similar issues as those who chose to remain married had better outcomes. While it is true that divorce has many detrimental effects on children, we must also take into account other evidence showing that subjecting kids to constant conflict, animosity, or even an abusive or violent relationship is not healthier for them.
Marital breakdown is often complex and sometimes may include very serious issues such as mental, emotional, and physical abuse. So if you've made the decision to divorce you might be wondering what you can do to help your child cope with this change.
It's important to understand that children react to conflict in three main ways.
1. By avoiding their feelings, for instance. Children may do this with the best of intentions because they don't want to make their parents feel bad or guilty, but doing so prevents parents from learning the truth about their child's emotions.
Your child may also respond by acting violently. They may lash out at their parents and other people by acting out the conflict they have been seeing. Often they don't understand their anger.
Children confronting their parents is a third way. The best method for kids to handle conflict is to express their feelings and ask their parents to talk it out. This type of reaction typically takes a lot of maturity and age to develop because the majority of children have been taught not to speak back. As children get older, they get more capable and develop the confidence to communicate openly with their parents.
Here are 5 ways you can help your child cope with your divorce.
1. Encourage your child to communicate.
Children keep their emotions to themselves, and it is true that many parents don't always know what their own child is thinking. As a result, they misjudge their child's situation and act as though everything is well. Children repress their feelings for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to disturb their parents, not knowing how to express themselves, or simply being too preoccupied with their own pain. While it may be difficult for you to hold space for your child as you work through your own difficult emotions, it is important to maintain an open dialogue with your child. Offering a hug, telling your child you love them, and asking them about how they may be feeling have significant positive impacts on your child.
2. Allow your child to express disappointment.
Don't minimize your child's suffering or unhappiness. Even when said with the best of intentions, sayings like "It's better this way" and "Don't worry, everything will be alright" to children convey the idea that you are unable to handle their unhappiness or, worse, that your child shouldn't feel that way. Anger and disappointment are common, healthy emotional responses to learning about your parent's divorce. Whether your child is upset about the divorce in general or about something more specific, like you having to work late again, it is important to remember that your child has a right to these emotions, and they should be able to express them without fear of upsetting or upsetting you. Your child should be free to address disappointment rather than avoid it. If you show your child that you understand and that his feelings matter. Your child will benefit from this for the rest of their life.
3. Don't fight in front of your children, or discuss inappropriate things.
Children of divorce who are exposed to persistent parental disputes tend to be the least well-adjusted, according to research. Nobody is requiring you and your ex-partner to be best friends, however, as parents, it is important that you make an effort to stop arguing in front of your children.
Another important thing to remember is to not make your child a messenger between yourselves. A typical situation that often happens between divorced parents is, for example, Dad might say, “Can you tell your mother that you have soccer practice on Sunday?” The child passes along the message. Mom responds annoyed, “Why didn’t your father tell me that? Why doesn’t he ever talk to me????” While this may seem trivial to you, it is not for your child. This can cause your child to feel torn between both you and your ex-partner, feeling like they have to agree or pick a side.
Another scenario that frequently occurs is when a parent discloses information to a child about the other parent that they ought to be discussing with a friend instead. This is because children nowadays are more emotionally connected to their parents than they were decades ago, and this tends to occur more frequently. Your child will feel conflicted as a result of these revelations. This is also very unfair and inappropriate because it is not any of your child's business.
4. Be willing to alter the visitation schedule.
According to David Knox, Ph.D., author of The Divorced Dad's Survival Book: How to Stay Connected With Your Kids, "Of course, consistency is key, but some flexibility on your part can boost an ex-partner's capacity to come through." For instance, if a particular day or hour is consistently missed, you may ask, "If Tuesday dinners aren't excellent, what would be better?"
5. Aim for peaceful transitions.
Children can sense stress and grow anxious even if you aren't publicly arguing. According to research, a lot of fathers refrain from seeing their children because it would be too stressful to run into their ex-partners. Some fathers remark that they are unable to bear the tension when they see their ex-spouse. "Or a father might see a plainly distressed child when he arrives and believe his ex-partner has been disparaging him. The father ultimately decides that it would be better if he never comes." Be polite no matter how offended or enraged you are. If you really can't, it might be best for your ex-partner to pick up your child at a McDonald's, a friend's house, or another neutral location.
Children must understand that their parents are also people with their own emotions. The fact that they understand you love them and will always be there for them is ultimately what matters the most.
Why Play Therapy can help your child through your divorce.
Play therapists are trained mental health practitioners specializing in helping young children.
It starts by helping children get in touch with their often complex emotions and help them express these feelings.
Play therapy in itself offers a lot of benefits for young children. Your child is constantly learning about the world around them through exploring and their own experiences. New and frequent experiences create connections in your child's brain that improve their ability to self-regulate and learn. During a significant change such as divorce, your child is likely to be experiencing a wave of emotions they don't understand. Early intervention can help children before they become traumatised. Childhood trauma has long-term effects experienced well into adulthood and can affect your child's ability to form healthy connections, and hold jobs. It may even lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. Play Therapy offers them a calm space to help them work through troubling emotions such as anxiety and frustration.
Play therapy is a long-standing alternative therapy treatment option for children and the consensus among child psychiatrists and psychologist is that playtime can often be used to help children learn, reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem. This is because children can express themselves without needing to talk.
During Play Therapy your child will learn to have empathy and respect for the feelings of others, regulate their own emotions, manage their reactions, form connections with people, and increase their ability to express themselves. These things lead to children having better outcomes in adulthood.
If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to get in touch today or want to know if Play Therapy could be suitable for your child take our quiz!