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10 Ways To Help Your Children Through A Divorce

10 Ways To Help Your Children Through A Divorce

Divorce is a time of awful change so there’s no question that it is stressful – for both parents and kids. The prospect of their parents splitting sets off all kinds of confusing thoughts in the fragile minds of children. The emotional toll of divorce on kids can be huge and if they don’t get proper help in time, the consequences can be terrible and may last throughout their lives.

Researchers have found that children with divorced parents are twice more likely to suffer from problems like depression, aggression, lower academic performance etc. than ones from intact families.

However, these problems are not inevitable. Knowing how to help your kids through this hard time makes all the difference in how the divorce impacts your kids on the short term as well as on the long run.

Here below are a few things for parents to do to help their kids cope with divorce.

1. Reassure your kids that they are loved

Seeing their parents go through the hassles of divorce can brew all kinds of negative thoughts in kids’ minds which could have devastating consequences in the long run. The changes that divorce brings along puts the kids in situations where they blame themselves for the things happening around them.

“He is leaving because I wasn’t a good kid. If only I had been better behaved”. These kind of thoughts leaves them feeling unloved which could result in problems like low self-esteem and emotional difficulties that can last well beyond childhood.  Comfort them often with hugs and reassure them that both the parents still love them. And also, make sure you are providing them with the necessary child support.

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2. Tell your children the truth about why you are separating (to the extent possible)

By keeping your kids in the dark or telling them lies about your divorce, you don’t save them any trouble, rather you make the already bad situation worse. If you’re building on the foundation of lies, when it gets sufficiently high it comes down crashing on you.

Be honest and tell your kids why you are divorcing but don’t forget to be age-aware. Don’t let them think the divorce is about them or give them the idea that they are the reason you are divorcing. Tell them early and often that it is not their fault that the family had to split. Help them process the truth without sugarcoating the situation.

3. Encourage them to communicate

Expressing yourself and sharing your feelings helps alleviate the pain and stress caused by any kind of difficult situation. Encourage your kids to communicate. Encourage them to express how they feel about the divorce as a whole and let out their frustrations.

Expressing themselves help them ease their frustrations and gives them a sense of empowerment. Listen to them, help them find words for their feelings and acknowledge them. Provide them therapy sessions if need be.

4. Don’t fight in front of your kids

Heated conversations, arguments about unreliability or finance are likely to take place under these kinds of circumstances where getting along with your spouse seems nearly impossible. But for the sake of your child, don’t fight in front of your kids or make them tools to exchange insults or anything divorce related

Don’t bring children into your fight at all.

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Researchers have found that the amount of parental conflicts witnessed by the child during and immediately after divorce has a crucial role in his/her adjustment. Most poorly adjusted kids are those exposed to conflicts. Keep your kids away from your fights.

5. Avoid blaming or criticizing your spouse in front of your kids

Criticizing and playing blame games impart nothing more than negativity. You can talk about it to your friends outside the home or in private therapy sessions but keep it away from your kids.

Never vent negative feelings to your children seeking support from them, even if they seem to want you to. Don’t expect your kids to take sides and try to make your spouse look guilty in front of them.

It is always advisable to keep a civilized relationship with your partner if at all possible. That helps reduce the tension of the situation and stress on your kids.

6. Stick to their routine

Divorce brings along many changes in routine which children find confusing and stressful. Try to minimize changes for them. Stick to their daily routine and usual activities as much as possible.

Having to adjust to a lot of changes at once can be difficult to anybody-especially children. It puts children under a lot of pressure and as a result, anxious thoughts set off. While they need to learn to be flexible to changes in their routine slowly, as a parent, you should try and minimize disruptions to things they love doing and make them feel that life is still normal.

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7. Allow kids to express disappointments

Let your kids vent out their disappointments about the divorce in general or about anything specific. Let them know you understand how they feel and that doesn’t upset you or make you angry.

If you miss a play date with your kid and he/she is disappointed with you about that, he/she is entitled to that feeling and should be able to express it without having to worry about upsetting you.

Being able to express disappointments to their parents helps them recover faster and strengthens parent-child relationship. Offer them mental support and comfort by letting them know that their feelings matter.

8. Aim for peaceful transitions

To help your kids adjust to the new circumstances, try and keep the transitions peaceful. Be flexible enough to allow rescheduling visitations. Be civil and try to keep a good relation with your kids’ other parent.

Present yourself well in front of your spouse no matter how upset or angry you feel, kids notice that. It will help reduce the stress on your kids and the tension of the situation.

9. Seek help from others

Don’t be afraid to seek help from others. Sometimes, it is difficult to handle things alone-you might not know how to deal with the feelings of your children while you yourself are struggling with your own.

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So, ask for help to your parents, relatives, friends to help you and your children. Tell their teachers, caretakers about what is happening so they can be understanding and supportive to the kids.

10. Keep yourself healthy

Keep your kids away from your worries. Your kids can sense your mood and your mood largely contributes to the state of their own mood. If they sense tension, they become anxious themselves.

Sadness is contagious. But so is happiness. Seeing their parents happy sends them a good message that everything is still fine. Only a happy parent can keep his/her kids happy. The faster you recover, the better you help your kids cope with the changes.

Keep yourself healthy, eat a healthy diet and exercise often. See your friends and keep yourself occupied with things you like doing. Maintain a healthy ambiance around you and that will help your kid a lot.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Published on December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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