HELPING CHILDREN THROUGH FAMILY BREAK DOWN
Children experience a range of emotions during the separation and divorce of their parents. The breakdown of the family unit can result in children being confused, experiencing intense sadness, stress and worry. Other feelings can range from anger, frustration, anxiety and fear. There is no optimum age where you can divorce and avoid your children feeling this way.
Much of the fear and anxiety children experience can occur when they worry whether they will see both their Mother and Father after the family breakdown. Parents can help to reduce their concern by reassuring them that they will still get to spend time with both you and their other parent. For children who are very anxious, a calendar marking the times when they will see each parent can help them to visualise this and provide comfort and reassurance to them. Reassuring your children can go a long way to reducing the stress and worry they will experience. Letting children know that you understand this and support your children’s relationship with their other parent enables them to relax and feel “OK” about loving both parents. If you can maintain a ‘pleasant’ or ‘cordial’ relationship with your former spouse/partner your children will cope with separation and divorce more easily.
Make time to be available to talk with your children, and listen to their concerns. It won’t be an easy process, and there will be times you need to reassure your child, even though you are going through stresses yourself. But listening, understanding and working towards stability and reassurance for your child will reduce the painful effects of the separation and divorce and help them to cope with the changes. Stability, structure and maintaining a timetables or routine, as much as possible, will show that your children can rely on you, and will provide a framework that is dependable and protective.
The changes from separation and divorce involve complex emotions and changes for yourself, and it will often be difficult to maintain your children’s needs. But taking active steps to assist their transition will reap benefits and reduce the pain and confusion your children will be experiencing. It will be worth the effort!