DIVORCE AND THE FAMILY
How to Help the Kids
You feel terrible enough that your marriage has
dissolved, but watching your children suffer is the worst. At
times you feel personally responsible for their pain. What can
you do to help them accept this major change in their lives?
Effects on the Children
Just as all the reasons for a divorce are
different, children will accept this loss in their life
differently. Some will sail through the change with little
disruption and others will be more severely affected.
Occasionally, they will feel some relief because the unhappy
environment before the divorce was unacceptable to them. Many
times they feel that they were the cause for the divorce.
When children are affected by the divorce,
certain problems are more common at different ages. Young
children can regress by clinging, wetting the bed, having
disrupted sleep and reverting to infantile behavior. School age
children can have some difficulties in school, show more
disruptive behavior and have a short-term difficulty with
relationships. Teens frequently engage in negative behaviors, do
poorly at school and become rebellious.
When to Seek Help
Divorce is an adult decision. You may need to
seek help to avoid feeling guilty over how it may hurt your
children. Children cannot be spared all the hurts in the world
but they need help to develop coping mechanisms to handle the
changes. Individual or family counseling would probably benefit
your family. Your pediatrician can help you sort out your child's
normal developmental behaviors and those that may be caused from
the stress of the divorce. You also need to take good care of
your health; both physical and mental, in order to serve as the
best role model for handling your own stress.
Children want to feel secure and know what is
going on. They don't need the sordid details of your divorce, but
they will feel less stress if there are no secrets where it
involves them. That means telling them there is a separation, and
that the other parent will visit on specific days, and that
neither of you loves them less. Assuring them that they are not
the cause of the divorce helps considerably.
If the children are old enough, let them have
some control in their lives. Where would the like to ho on their
visitation? How would they like to divide up the holiday? How
would they like to keep in contact with the grandparents? Respect
your final divorce decree and don't violate it, but let your
children have choices when they can.
The hardest thing in a bitter divorce is to
maintain respect for the other parent when talking with your
children. Criticizing your spouse puts the children in the middle
and leaves them confused and unhappy. Messages for your spouse
should come from you and not through your children. This is not
always easy but it protects the children from adult game playing
and demonstrates your maturity.
You all need time to heal and to accept your
changed lives. You don't need to put your life on hold but it's
important not to rush into a new relationship.
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