Parents who are considering divorce have many questions, but one of the big ones I hear in my Divorce With Dignity office is, “How can I help my children get through this?” Providing emotional support for the children, both during and after a divorce, is essential to their well-being.
It is very important to get them some help whether or not they show signs of stress. Many children will hold things inside that can fester and grow into big problems down the road. Some will think that the divorce is somehow their fault, even if they do not express this to you. Be sure to tell them that the divorce is definitely not their fault, and express your and your spouse’s continued love for them. And get them some help. Talking with a school counselor, social worker, or therapist can give children a way to express their feelings and get emotional support. Participating in groups or programs specifically for children whose parents are going through divorce can also be of great benefit.
One such organization is Kids’ Turn, located in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are a non-profit group that helps families through parental separation. Their motto is “Putting kids in the center of healing, not in the middle of conflict.” Services are free for the children, and the parents pay on a sliding fee basis. No family is turned away due to inability to pay.
In addition to professional help, there are things parents can do to provide emotional support and ease the stress of the divorce on their children. One information resource with great advice for helping children cope with divorce is KidsHealth.
Some tips from their website are:
- Encourage honesty. Let them know that their feelings are important to you, and that they can tell you whatever they’re thinking.
- Help them put their feelings into words. You might notice some changes in their behavior that can indicate feelings of sadness or anger. You might say, “It seems as if you’re feeling sad right now. Do you know what’s making you feel so sad?” Then really listen, even if what they say is difficult for you to hear.
- Legitimize their feelings. Let them know what they are feeling is valid and understandable.
- Offer support. Ask them what they think might help them feel better. If they don’t know, you could suggest some ideas such as sitting close together for awhile, holding a favorite stuffed animal, or drawing a picture.
- Keep yourself healthy. Find ways to manage your own stress and emotions. Getting exercise and enough sleep can support your physical and emotional health, which enables you to take care of your children’s needs. Talking with a counselor or religious leader, finding a support group, or working with a therapist can also be a big help.
One important way to reduce the emotional burden of the divorce on your children is to avoid an adversarial litigated divorce and instead work together to have your divorce be as peaceful as possible. At Divorce With Dignity, you will find a safe place to talk about your divorce, understand your options, learn how to create a divorce agreement that is fair to all parties, and get through the divorce process – with dignity.
The author of this blog is not an attorney and the information contained in these blogs should not be considered legal advice. The information provided here is based on the experience of the author and some of her clients whose actual names are not mentioned. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of an attorney if you have any legal questions