Divorce is a restructuring of the family unit that can be especially trying on children as they sort through their new living situations, feelings of frustration, loss and missing one parent when with the other. For most children this will not be a quick kiss their boo-boo and make it better scenario, but will be a several month process as they adjust to their new family structure. The good news is there are several ways to make the transition easier and set you on your way to a continued healthy parent-child relationship.
- Give them extra one-on-one time and attention to assure them that they are still priority amongst all the changes. Avoid using things, such as new toys, gadgets, etc. to buffer the difficult emotions your child might be experiencing. Though they might momentarily appease a fickle child, in the long run consistent, quality time will be what grounds and assures your youngsters that they are still loved, safe and secure.
- Communicate with teachers, caregivers, and any friends or family members who take part in regular care for your child. Share that you and your spouse are going through divorce, explain the custody agreement, how you feel your child is processing it all and ask them to fill you in on any behavioral changes happening while away from your care. Open communication will only help when examining how to best meet the needs of your child.
- Bring that same candid communication into your home. Make it an open feelings zone, meaning any and every emotion from sadness to anger are welcome if expressed through verbal communication. If your child is breaking down into tantrums more than usual, calmly express that you understand that he or she is angry and you know that must feel awful and then share your sorrow for that. By validating their feeling, no matter how young they are, you are building trust and teaching them how to use words to communicate the messier of emotions. Redirect angry tones and physical outbursts into conversation. Don’t be discouraged if the first attempts at this aren’t the most successful. Remember that most parenting techniques are about long term attainment, not immediate gratification.
- Seek support specifically geared for your child outside of you or your regular caretakers. For some children, one-on-one therapy with a licensed psychologist might be a neutral safe zone from the pull they are feeling from both parents in order for them to sort through their emotions. Psychology Today is a great resource to find the right therapist for your child.
- Seek outside support for your child and you together. Not only does this let them see that you too need a little extra guidance and encouragement, but it ensures them that you are in this together. There are several divorce care curricula that are often sponsored through local churches. Sandcastles Divorce Program is one that is currently available in the Los Angeles area, though through a bit of searching or word of mouth there are more to be found.
Sandcastles Program is a national, non-sectarian one-day program for children ages 6-18 and their parents. The children are divided into four different age groups while mom or dad attend their own workshop, with all kids and parents being brought back together for the last half hour of the session.
In the Los Angeles area this program will next be sponsored by Rolling Hills United Methodist Church along side Congregation Ner Tamid on April 21, with a sign up deadline of April 14. The event will be located at Ner Tamid, 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275 with a cost of $125.00, scholarships are available. Contact Diane Rehfield at 310.377.6771 ext. 105 by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Written by best selling author and licensed counselor, M. Gary Neuman, more info on Sandcastles can be found at mgaryneuman.com.