Divorce is difficult for everybody – even the person who applied in the first place. Even if you have fallen out of love with your spouse, ending the marriage still means months of disruption and the frequently exhausting reconstruction of one’s home add finances. Meanwhile, if you’re the one being divorced, you will face a difficult period of emotional adjustment on top of the turbulence and stress of reconfiguring your life.
Helping the children
In the emotional fallout of divorce and separation, children are the innocent bystanders. Even very young children may be acutely aware of tension and unhappiness in the home, and most will struggle to make sense of the unsettling ways in which their family is changing. It’s palpable and yet deeply confusing if you’re too young to understand.
Children draw their sense of security from their parents and will naturally look to them for answers. It’s your job as Mum or Dad protect your children and make the separation as easy and stress-free as they can. Sadly, some parents become so caught up in their own dramas and fail at this task.
Your watchwords should be:
All but the oldest and most emotionally aware youngsters will have little understanding of the problems that have driven their parents apart: all they will know is that parents they loved are no longer everyday figures in their lives. Their home, their centre of their world, has come apart. The reassuring duopoly of Mum and Dad is no more.
Explain what is happening in age-appropriate ways. This will help your children to manage their own emotions and anxieties about the situation. In the absence of clarity, children often turn to their vivid imaginations to try and interpret the behaviour of their divorcing parents. Many youngsters worry that the separation is somehow their fault – that they caused it, somehow, by not being good enough. Others will worry about their new living arrangements, or about when and where they will see the parent who has moved out. Does that parent even still love them?
All this brings us to the reassurance stage. Make sure your children understand that the separation is nothing to do with them, and that yes, they will still get to spend plenty of time with that the other parent, even if no longer every day. It is important that they fully understand – especially if young – that the parent who has moved out is still their father or mother and will still be part of their lives.
Routines are an important part of this reassurance. Serve meals at the usual time, help your kids off to school at the time they’ve always gone, let your kids see their friends as usual and enjoy their regular pursuits. Let them feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their pre-divorce lives will continue in many ways, even as other aspects of their lives change.
If you are still on relatively good terms with your estranged spouse, you might want to sit down and discuss the situation with your children together. But if that isn’t possible, the same clear messages can be conveyed separately. It is better to both agree on the approach you plan to take, so do try and discuss this with your ex beforehand if you possibly can: a unified, consistent message will help console upset children and give them confidence in the future.