Written by Ayka Roorda
If you're a parent going through separation and divorce, minimizing the impact of these turbulent times on your children becomes a high priority. Both you and your children need information and support to move through these major life changes in a constructive, healing manner.
Here are some positive steps you can take to make the transition smoother:
- Remember that your children need to grieve the loss of the family unit in the same way that you do. This is only possible if you can listen with an open mind and heart. Temporarily set aside your own emotions and allow your child to express his or her feelings freely. Clarity provides children with the security they need to heal, adjust and grow. Let your children know what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and how it is going to happen.
- Loss of self-esteem and self-image are common casualties of separation and divorce for parents and children. Children connect their own identity with what they perceive to be true about their parents. These perceptions are formed by the comments and opinions of others. Therefore, it's important to maintain the positive images of both parents. Solve disputes outside the observation range of your children and speak neutrally about the other parent.
- Find your children a Peer Support group. Children often feel uncomfortable talking about their situation with friends because they don't want to appear different. A Peer Support group will help normalize their feelings as they realize they are not alone.
- Above all, the most important thing you can do for your children is to heal yourself, first. Children follow the lead of their parents' progress, mirroring the parent who is the least far along in the healing process. If you're overwhelmed by the emotions involved in separation and divorce, seek help from family, friends and community resources. The greatest gift you can give your children is to do your own healing work.
These tools will help your newly separated family generate strength and hope for future well being. Through it all, remember, children need all your love as well as consistent, positive discipline to create greater understanding and deeper family relationships.
Ayka is a Parenting Coach and a Facilitator of Peer-Support Workshops for Children of Divorce with "Rebuilding for Kids The Sandcastles Way".