Be honest in an age-appropriate manner. Younger kids need fewer details than older ones but still require openness. Occasionally it may even be reasonable to say, "That's between the grown-ups but understand that we both love you." Bypass directly lying as it can confuse and sends the incorrect message. For example, a young child asks, "Are you sad, Mom?" If you respond, "No, I'm okay. Let's go play," it teaches them that they aren't sensing your emotions correctly; that what they believed they read on your face was incorrect. Or it instructs that feelings are to be concealed. It would be more suitable to answer, "I'm a little sad. Let's go play, okay? That will help Mommy feel better." This is honest in an age-appropriate way that validates your child's understanding and models a suitable way to manage emotions.
Our experts on relationship and marriage counseling in Orlando recommend attending to and validating your child's feelings. It can be challenging to listen to your child's emotions without being defensive or wanting to give more information that you believe will help. Still, your child only needs to know that you see them and understand the emotions they are experiencing.
Continue to deliver rules and structure. Your child's whole world is transforming. Maybe they have to move or switch schools. In addition, a child's individuality is hugely connected to their household, which can be confusing when the family configuration changes. Continuing to provide rules and structure allows the child to feel a little safer. Understandably, parents are tempted to show their children unlimited freedom, supplementary gifts, or justify behaviors during this challenging time. While doing a little of each is good, some restrictions and structure help your child feel safe.
Provide consistency between residences when feasible, and when not, at least provide it in your home. Co-parenting is challenging, particularly at first when emotions are raw, and you're conscious of the differences that led to the separation. However, if you can communicate with your co-parent and supply some consistency, it creates the safety net your kids need. For instance, two parents often have different expectations about where kids should do their homework. One parent thinks kids should do it at the kitchen table where they can monitor it, and the other is cool with it being finished in the bedroom.
Still, both parents communicate that school work is essential and must be completed and that they value good grades.
Promote their connection with both parents. When the feelings from separation or divorce are new, you may be tempted to speak badly about your ex-spouse. However, even when you don't communicate something directly, your child might pick up cues from your body language or expression when your ex's name is spoken or notice your anxiety right before pick-up time. So instead, show your child that even though you and your ex have differences, you love them and want them to have a healthy relationship with both parents.
Encourage your kids to discover a healthy outlet for their feelings. This might mean joining a dance class, a club, discovering a new instrument, or painting. Anything that will let them clear their minds and feel in control and accomplished in one part of their life. Encourage them to discover something that makes them feel passionate. Offer to set play dates or show an interest in their hobbies.
Follow these tips to help your child or pre-teen cope with divorce. Contact us today if you need relationship or marriage counseling in Orlando. We are here to help you grow.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.