Children are curious creatures, aren’t they? So often, we hear about how kids are so resilient. When you separated from their father, they might have even appeared to be able to tolerate it… for a while. Are you beginning to see some differences in behaviors and emotions among your children? Perhaps you are wondering what could be causing all the setbacks lately.
It’s true. Kids are resilient and can handle a ton. They seem to bounce right back usually. However, when outside and unfamiliar stressors are added to the scenario, it could knock them for a loop and they may not know how to deal with what they are feeling.
Studies have shown that divorce or separation can affect the relationship a child has with a parent, most often, the custodial parent. If you’re seeing some pushback from your kiddos lately, you’re not alone. The separation you went through was difficult for you, right? It’s only natural for the whole family to undergo some obstacles.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that you’re noticing some behavioral changes in your children. The way they are trying to handle their own feelings is difficult for them and it’s not the same for each child. Of course, the age of the child comes into play, as does the level of the severity of the situation. The list can be lengthy, but some of the most common changes you may see among children going through this kind of abrupt life change include depression, anger, academic struggles, social withdrawal, or separation anxiety.
You’re a good mom. Because of that, you’re feeling some shame, guilt, and responsibility for your children’s actions. If you know and understand that these are normal stages for your child, you may be more apt to get ahead of the situation before it escalates out of your control. Here’s a sneak peek into some of our top tips for keeping your children feeling like the world will not cave in on them because of your divorce or separation.
Interviews with children going through the separation or divorce of their parents has overwhelmingly shown that the biggest reason children feel the way they do is because they have had to witness the conflict between their parents. Sure, there were arguments that weren’t always kept behind closed doors before you split up, and chances are, your kids have been privy to your conversations with others as you spoke negatively about your ex. If your children have been exposed to this, it’s eating away at their little hearts. They feel like they’re being put into a position to choose one parent over the other and it’s not fair to them.
Going forward, there is only one solution. You have to remain positive when involving your ex. If that cannot simply be done, then it is imperative that your children are not anywhere near you when conversations begin heading south. Definitely put an end to the obvious arguments and if you have to, pretend (for their sakes) that you can still get along with their father. Keep heated discussions and legal topics away from your kids.
After the separation, it’s no wonder kids feel torn. Each child may respond differently. One child may choose silence, as to not upset the already broken parents. Another child may act out aggressively, sometimes mimicking conflict they’ve witnessed. Other kids may turn to confrontation, seeking answers from the adults in the situation.
While it can be difficult to navigate the feelings and emotions of each child, one thing remains the same. It’s important for you to listen. Listen to your child’s concerns and give them honest responses in return. Understand that your child needs more time to cope with what has happened. You’ve had months or years of knowing your marriage wasn’t working. Give them some time to grieve. Being honest when you’re unsure of all the answers may prove challenging, but give them the answers to the questions they need at this time.
Having conversations with your children might look differently from another family’s experience. Certainly, the age of your children will factor into your discussion location and length. You don’t, however, need to beat the subject to death. Just provide enough information to ward off the worry of the youngsters. Reassure them that their feelings are okay and that everyone is going to be okay, including you.
We know you’re strong. You may even be led to believe that you can do this on your own. Just pack up the kids and beeline it towards a new life. While this may be manageable for some, it is not ideal for the majority. You have to find a support system in your friends and family. Utilize any resource you can find in the community or online. It’s also perfectly fine for you to seek professional counseling.
While it may be tempting, especially if you have older children, do not let yourself lean on your children for support. It may be easy to give in and just tell your daughter what’s on your mind and heart, but it’s not good for her. You should seek advice from adults; don’t lean on your child to provide emotional support. Your children should also lean on others outside of you. For example, a counselor at school or a spiritual leader from your church. If they have a friend who has also been through a divorce, encourage that friendship. They’ll need someone to confide in and if it can be someone who has also experienced a similar circumstance, it will benefit your child.
The tornado that tore through your family left everyone involved among the debris. At first, you won’t know what to do or where to turn. Forget about being on top of things; you don’t even have a productive schedule or routine. It is what’s needed, though, to keep the situation moving forward and in a positive direction.
Children, no matter the age, need consistency. They rely on parental guidance to get them from one day to the next. Not only has it been an already major change for them, there will be other new things that come up out of nowhere. If you can try to establish a routine and set some guidelines, your children will begin to see there is routine and expectations in their day. This will allow them to remain a little less stressed and anxious.
This is also true when it comes to sharing time with your ex. It is important for a schedule to be established and followed for visitation. Your child will need to feel stability in this. There will be times a schedule will feel inconvenient, but for the kids, you have to make it work as planned. Speaking of your children spending time with your ex, it would benefit all of you if the expectations set for bedtimes, meals, chores, etc., could be consistent between homes.
Some children are able to move on in a matter of months. It may take others several years to find a new sense of belonging and normalcy. Research shows that most children may overcome the idea of parents being separated; what they don’t know how to handle is the feeling of being torn between both their mom and their dad. After the initial feelings of sadness, shock, or worry, your child may end up being someone who will be better able to cope with stress, anxiety, or flexibility as an adult.
But it’s up to you, mom. Help them through this tough patch. Keep a close eye on your children and be open and honest about what they are feeling. There’s no doubt that your children will see your vulnerability and that’s okay! You’re only human, after all. Find your inner strength and be the leader of your tribe. Rest assured, you and your kids will be able to overcome this situation, sticky as it may appear in the beginning. Focus on being present with your children and showing unconditional love in all circumstances.