Helping a Child Through the Trauma of Divorce
There is a time in many marriages when the two adults involved feel that separating is the best decision for the family, and soon after divorce proceedings may be initiated. But, to the children involved in these unfortunate circumstances, it may seem like this “best decision” will mean the end of their secure world. Change, especially when it comes to the dynamics of their family, is often difficult for children. The younger they are, the harder it will be to explain to them why mommy and daddy can not longer live together and why they must now split their time between two separate homes. This is why it is important for parents to understand the needs of the child during this time and know how to help them cope with the situation.
The first step should be for both parents to sit down with the child — or children — and explain the circumstances to them. How much detail you give and what wording you use will all depend on the child’s age and ability to grasp the situation. During this time you should give the child a chance to ask questions in order to avoid any confusion. These questions may be hard for you, but they are necessary to help your child cope and deal with what is about to happen. Explaining to your child the changes that will happen over the next few weeks and months should be a priority, so that can fully prepare themselves for their new reality.
Before you finalize the divorce — or even afterward if both adults agree to it — you should look into family counseling. It is often thought that a child who is having trouble coping with divorce should see an individual therapist, but that is not always the best choice. This may make the child feel like there is something wrong with them and maybe that’s what caused mommy and daddy to break up. This is a family issue, which should be handled as a family. It will also show the child that, even though you and your spouse no longer live together, you can still parent together. Knowing that both their mom AND their dad can still be at their side together, will help the child through this rough transition.
Even after you think your child has fully dealt with the affects of the divorce, it is still important that you let them know that it is still okay to talk to you about it if they need to. Although a child may seem fine for several months, they could still be trying to silently cope with the situation. Unfortunately, divorce is one of those situations that can affect a child for their entire life, if it is not dealt with properly when the child is young. It can leave lasting scars that may eventually play a role in how they react in their own adulthood relationships and determine if their own children experience the same divorce cycle.
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