How much you tell your child about the cause and effect of your separation and divorce must depend to a large extent on their age and their ability to comprehend the situation. No matter what, don’t hide the situation from your child- they are more perceptive and aware than you may realize and by not telling them what’s going on, they can become more confused, worried and stressed out. The following are some strategies to helping your child cope.
- Assure them that both parents love them
- Give them reassurance and understanding
- Acknowledge their dilemma and confusion
- Allow them to be loyal to both parents
- Minimize conflict in front of your children
- Try not to substitute children for adult companionship
- Children should maintain links with their extended family
- Share feelings and/or information with your children- children feel terribly insecure and fearful when you keep them in the dark
- Inform your children that leading a good life after the divorce requires teamwork and demands new responsibilities from everyone in tending to household duties. Children welcome being part of a team; it makes them feel needed and more secure
- How you talk to your children is just as important as what you talk to them about. For example, they will hear your anger if you keep raging at the injustices in your life and will believe that they are the cause of your anger
- Explain to your children why you are working- because you have to provide their food, home and fun times you have together. You reassure them that going to work is not a way of abandoning them, but is how you show them that you love them
Set up a support structure for your child. People who could be a part of your child’s support network could be: the parents’ of your child’s best friend, your child’s teacher, your family doctor, family, friends, a therapist who specializes in children, after-school group activity leaders, a pet and most importantly, yourself!
Susan Lieberman is in private practice in Toronto as a family therapist and public speaker. For more information call (416) 512-6356.