Divorce creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for children, and parents should take every effort to minimize their children’s fears and maximize their children’s sense of security and love. Here are some simple ways to do just that.
First, listen. Children vary in how they express their emotions. You, as a parent, should remain tuned in to their emotional temperature. If you sense they have bottled up feelings, ask them if they need to talk. If you have a naturally talkative child, take the time to listen to the child vent.
Second, answer. While you want to listen in a very non-judgmental manner, answering their concerns needs to feed into one key thought: you love your child, you will always be there for your child, and if the child ever wants to talk you will listen and answer. If your child wants to know details about the marriage and divorce, take care to assure the child the divorce has nothing to do with the child and just about the relationship between parents. Try to limit the conversation about the legal process, as that tends to make matters seem like parent against parent. Instead, tell the child that the parents are working out how to have two households and come up with a parenting arrangement that will be best for everyone.
Third, take a breath. When your children have questions or concerns, you may be tempted to respond too emotionally, perhaps saying something derogatory about the other parent. The touchier the question, the greater the need to take a breath before giving an answer, allowing yourself to refocus on a positive answer.
Fourth, consider counseling. Children will not always share fully their emotional concerns during divorce for fear of alienating or upsetting one or both parents. Consequently, offering children the opportunity to speak to a counselor will give them a safe space to share their private concerns without making any parent angry or upset. Also, divorce can be very difficult or traumatic for children, and a professional may be needed to adequately address their well-being.
Finally, be a hug. When it comes down to one image of comfort and security, we think the hug is the ideal representation. Your child should always feel that time with you is a nice hug, a warm fuzzy blanket. Granted, depending upon the age of the child, the rush for a hug may diminish, but never the need for the sense that the environment for one is always there, ever present.
If you have questions about emotion support for children during divorce, contact us – we can help.