It may well be outside of your comfortzone, but to help children coping with divorce, you could discuss the separation and divorce with your children. This will certainly also strengthen your relationship with them. Trust is an important factor. Sharing this event with them will help maintain their trust in you.
With younger children only share the general information. Adolescents may demand more details. Talk to the children about your concerns. This will help them understand what is happening. In all cases be clear on what their future will look like and how their relationship with either of the parents will be.
To make sure that the children suffer less, it is most important factor to keep the amount en level of intensity of conflict between the parents at an absolute minimum. The lower the level of conflict between the parents after the divorce, the better for the growth of the children. For the children to feel self confident and well loved, both parents should continue to love and approve their children and agree on all topics of upbringing.
Research has shown that joint living arrangements, where the children move from one household to the other, have many advantages but that there are also some important drawbacks. Depending on their age, children can think they are being punished by being send away from one parent to the other. Other age-groups may find this lifestyle intruding. Hence, to help your children coping with divorce, try to keep them in the same environment. Limit the number of disruptions children must handle during separation and divorce. Try to keep the children in the same school, childcare facility, home or neighborhood.
This type of arrangement asks for a constant contact between the parents and when these contacts become troublesome and if the parents do not get along very well, the children will suffer. If the parents want to help children coping with divorce, but they need to keep the level of conflict low or nihil. Otherwise joint living arrangements are not advised.
Making sure that both parents are part of the day-to-day world of the children let's them know they are loved and valued. Through letters, email, phone, tapes and sharing homework and artwork parents who live at a distance can still keep contact.
Especially when the co-parenting is a success, children fantasize about getting the parents back together again. Be very clear from the beginning about the finality of the divorce.
Prepare for your own support needs
To help children coping with divorce, prepare for your own support with the right people. To handle your stress which may hurt the children, develop some tactics. Exercise, eat nutritious food, spend time with friends or take up a hobby. Ask for help immediately when stress starts to build up, turn to friends and family or even your former spouse and ask for support. But do not turn to your children to ask them. You have to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your children. Help them understand that there are positive ways to deal with stress, and help them find positive ways to deal with their own stress as well like playing with friends, joining a club, or taking up a hobby. Perhaps some activities, such as going for walks, you and your children can do together. Do set firm limits to aggressive and other inappropriate behaviour.
If needed find support groups and new role models for the children. Friends and family and professional counseling can help children to explore their feelings and learn how other children cope with divorce. Be aware that on average it takes two or more years for children to adjust to the divorce sistuation. Love and understanding and close contact with your children will help them grow into balanced and loving people.
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