When a family finds itself in the middle of a separation or divorce, It’s easy for even the most well-meaning parent to overlook the need to protect their child and assume that they will bounce back once the legal machinations of divorce are through. But with the fighting over custody of the kids, struggle over visitation rights, e.t.c it all can make an ugly mark on the children both in the short-term and the long-term. Some children wed up having to deal with depression, sleep disorders, loss of self-esteem, behavioral regression, and a number of other physical and emotional disorders.
While the chaotic aspect of divorce can sometimes seem inevitable, the impact it has on the child actually depends on how well the parents are able to isolate the children from the disruptions. There are ways parents can help buffer their children from the real and imagined problems they face during parental separation and or divorce. Here are a few tips for parents looking to protect their children from the effects of a divorce:
Change as little as possible, especially at first. Do not alter the way you discipline and reward your child. Keep the routines the same (bedtimes, meals). Children feel safest when things are familiar. If possible, don’t uproot your children. A stable residence and school life will help cushion the trauma of the divorce.
Shower the children with love and attention
Tough times are the best times to be more affectionate. A little more affection can make a big difference to children who are feeling scared or lonely. You, however, have to be careful not to overdo it. At every step during your divorce, remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount and act accordingly. Lavish them with love at each opportunity. Reassure them that they’re loved and that the divorce isn’t their fault. Many children assume that they’re to blame for their parents’ hostility.
Do not let your children take care of you.
During a divorce, you may become emotionally drained and so weak your children may be tempted to act as your caretaker. Resist the temptation to let them. Instead turn to your peers, adult family members, and mental health professionals for support. Let your children be children. Many children try to act like adults and want to help and comfort their parents, who they can see are in more distress than usual. That is not their job. It is hard enough to be a child at times like these, so don’t treat them like an adult. Do the children a favor and keep the parental and child roles distinct and separate.
Help your children to stay connected.
Support your children’s friendships and activities. Changing schools or daycare is a bad idea. If you can, avoid it. And even if you must move to a distant neighborhood and school district, make an effort to have sleepovers and play dates with their old friends, and encourage new friendships too. Also, encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently. Do everything within your power to accommodate the visitation.
Reassure your children about the basic necessities
Children know when parents are feeling economically stressed, and even a well to do child may well be worried that there won’t be enough food or clothes. If you can honestly tell them that food shelter and clothes won’t be a problem, then tell them sooner rather than later. If you are the non-custodial parent, pay your child support. The loss of income after divorce puts children at a financial disadvantage and can affect them for the rest of their lives; and If you’re the custodial parent and not receiving child support, don’t tell your children. It feeds into the child’s sense of abandonment and further erodes his or her stability
Spare the children the exposure to fights
Remember that kids are experts at listening in. Have your disagreements well out of earshot, and do not make your children take sides, act as a go-between, or become a messenger in your disagreements. Do not quiz them about your ex-spouse. If your a curious, pick up the phone and ask for yourself if you really need to know. Never disparage your former spouse in front of your children, the criticism can hurt the child’s self-esteem. Instead discuss disagreements calmly, keep conversations between you and your partner, and let children see conflict resolved, not escalated
Take good care of yourself
Kids can really get on your nerves at a time like this, and single parenting is enough to overwhelm any normal person. You are not Superman. You need help and support, and you need time off from the kids. Make a point of getting help from family, friends and the many parent support groups and family service agencies you can find. Stay healthy. Eat, sleep, and exercise well. Do not isolate your self, spend plenty of time with old and new friends who can be supportive. If you start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or angry, consider getting help from a therapist.
The key to protecting the children from the impact of your divorce by consciously taking these steps above. parents should sometimes step back from their own anger and see what is really at stake. It isn’t their pride. It isn’t their home. It isn’t even the million in the account. What is really at stake is the long-term well-being of their children. It would be easier to ignore the problems of divorce, but the stakes are too high, and children are certainly worth the extra effort.
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