Parenting after Divorce and RemarriageAsa Jomard | 2, June 2009
Parents can help their children emerge as stronger and more resilient after a divorce. Admittedly, it can be a stressful and difficult time, and many children may feel anxious, frustrated, angry or sad. Fortunately, children have a remarkable ability to heal and children raised in a supportive environment will grow from the experiences and flourish.
How to talk about divorce
It is important to talk about the divorce and what has happened. Young children need fewer details so the explanations should be short and simple. Talk about what had happened and the changes in a similar way as you discuss other things and events in their lives. Try to make the conversation as concrete as possible by showing them what you mean. You may need to talk about the same thing several times so it is good to be consistent in your explanations and answers. Many children blame themselves for the divorce, so keep reassuring them that whatever happened had nothing to do with them.
Help Children Express Their Feelings
Children experience different feelings after a divorce, and for younger children some of these feelings might be new and overwhelming. It is possible to help even young children to express their emotions and becoming more capable of managing themselves. The goal is to make your child the expert on his/her own feelings and to help them express their feelings. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings by making observations about how they could be feeling. Comments such as, "You look as if you are feeling angry," may help children to talk about their feelings.
Pictures or photos showing people with different feelings and emotions might be good to use with younger children. You can also tell or read stories, and talk about how the characters are feeling. It is natural for kids to have many different and conflicting emotions about a divorce so reassure your children that it is fine to feel whatever they feel.
Children under six tend to misbehave because they are too young to articulate and express feelings like jealousy or a fear. By providing clear and sensitive communication you can help your children to express their anger in a positive way. A two-year-old is beginning to label feelings but they still have difficulties controlling feelings and they often express their feelings during play. Comfort objects can help a young child to cope with new situations and strong emotions.
Younger children's sense of security comes from not only a stable family environment but also from predictability and routines. Setting up a few established routines and rituals will show them continuity after the divorce and will help to diminish uncertainty.
A big adjustment for children is moving between homes which may remind them about the divorce. Be patient and calm, and try to minimize their anxiousness about when they change house. A calendar or some other visual cue helps younger children who do not always understand the concept of time. Children can mark off the days until they see their other parent, and this makes traveling between houses less stressful. Give children time to adjust and make sure they feel at home in both places. Familiar routines, belongings, toys and games help to make them feel loved and safe regardless of where they are.
Bring humor and play into your children's daily life. Laughter is an excellent medicine that relieves stress and provides a break from sadness, anger and frustration. It is also important for parents to relieve their own stress and the more a parent take care of him/herself the better the child will eventually feel.
Divorce brings numerous changes and it is natural for children to hope that their parents will get back together. Reassure them that it is fine to wish that everyone will live together again but also explain that it is not possible for their parents to reunite. Children will feel confused about the idea of their parents remarrying, and many children often object more after the marriage than before. A young child might suddenly realize that the step-mom is not going away. Introduce your new partner slowly and in a genuine way which gives your children an idea what real life will be like when you get married.
Provide your children time to get used to the idea, and your children need to hear the plans from you. It is a good idea to inform you ex-partner about the plans first, so that he/she can confirm your plans. Communication can sometimes be difficult, however, e-mails or text-messages is one way of keeping each other informed about important things in your children's lives. Listen to the concerns and objections that your children have, this will provide you with clues and information about how long it will take for them to get used to the idea.
With love, support and appreciation your children will learn important skills which will help them feel happier and more able to deal with the divorce and the idea of a parent remarrying.Asa Jomard is a freelance writer, with degrees in Psychology and Counseling. She enjoys gardening, star watching, playing with her dog and cat, and listening to music. She has a teen aged daughter.
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