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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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Nabin Paudyal

Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Published on September 10, 2020

How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

How to Be a Better Parent: 11 Things to Remember

Two of the most challenging jobs in the world are raising a human being and being the best parent possible for them. Raising a child without implementing specific rules is not enough, however. The job has to be done in such a way that when you’re “done,” you’ve already created a loving, responsible, self-sufficient, kind-hearted, thoughtful, empathic, and respectful persona. Hence, it is ideal to lower the bar a little and start learning how to be a better parent.

Don’t get me wrong; mistakes will be made along the way. You won’t be perfect, regardless of how hard you try.

And no matter how great a job you do, your child may have issues beyond your control. Remember, they will be born with a will of their own that may conflict with yours. Nevertheless, carrying out the following tips will provide you with the best chance to create a fantastic human being of whom you can be proud.

1. Listen

I knew a couple who had a daughter. She was smart, sweet, and as cute as a button, but her parents were old school. They believed the adage that a child should be seen and not heard. She might as well have been a doll in a curio cabinet. Unfortunately, this little girl had a lot of exciting ideas and things to say. I knew this because she would share them with me on the occasions that we were alone.

Children are interesting, funny, and curious, and they look upon you — their parent — as a hero. They have a wealth of knowledge and a great perspective on life. Listening to your child is one of the greatest gifts you can offer. They will feel valued and grow up knowing that they matter.

It’s not always easy to listen. Sometimes, children will carry on without saying anything profound. But if they believe you’re listening, they will feel important and provide you with amazing nuggets of information.

Note: Make a real and honest effort when you are listening to your children. Don’t listen while multitasking and muttering, “Hmm, that’s nice, dear!”

Sadly, I’ve seen lots of parents on their phones, their heads buried in Facebook or Instagram feed, while their child tries unsuccessfully to get their attention. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M. D., wrote, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. True listening, total concentration on the other, is always a manifestation of love.”

2. Provide Unconditional Love

I knew a mother who loved her son so much, but her love came at a high price. When he behaved as she expected him to — getting recognition for being a star athlete or academic achievements — she showered him with love. In truth, she bragged and put up framed newspaper articles of her son’s accomplishments.

That same boy, though, went through a rough patch when he was a senior, becoming unruly and hostile. Down came the framed article, and up came the silent treatment.

Providing unconditional love creates a secure bond and a healthy person. Knowing you have your parent’s love no matter what makes a fantastic anchor for the child. They know they can mess up and still be loved. They know they can come to you with their worst offenses, and while you might get upset, your love will remain intact.

3. Teach by Example

Children watch and listen to you very closely. You may think that they’re not paying attention, that they’re in the other room, playing with their Legos, but they are listening.

If you want to teach your child, lead by example.

For instance, if you want them to eat healthy foods, eat healthy foods. If you don’t want them to pick up bad habits, like smoking, don’t smoke. If you don’t want them to be violent, be peaceful. If you wish to raise a trustworthy child, keep your word.[1]

If you want to teach your child how to communicate, speak kindly and listen with an open heart. Whatever you want your child to learn, be willing to do it yourself. You are the best teacher for the job!

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4. Spend Time Together Often

Life is full of work, errands, get-togethers, appointments, etc. It’s easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle and not leave enough time for your children. I know busy parents who set their children down on the couch to watch TV or play with an iPad while they’re working.

Occasionally, that isn’t a bad thing. But regularly, it can create a gap between you and your child.

You can avoid being an absentee parent by spending time with your children every day. Talk to them about anything; ask about their day. If you can, allow them to help you with household chores. E.g., cleaning, folding laundry or stacking dishes in the dishwasher.

They’ll feel good when they know you need them, and you can use this as a family bonding opportunity.

5. Follow Through

Follow through creates trust in your child. They will believe that what you say you’re going to do will genuinely be done.

Children are very perceptive. Let me reiterate: they are always watching and listening.

For instance, I was on a walk one afternoon with my granddaughter and her parents. The little girl was asked if she wanted to ride the stroller, and she replied, “No, I want to walk.”

My daughter-in-law responded, “Okay, but if you get tired, I’m not carrying you! Understood?”

After about 15 minutes, my granddaughter complained that her legs hurt. She started whining and complaining. When my daughter-in-law picked her up, she commented, “I thought you said you weren’t going to pick me up?”

My daughter-in-law did not follow through, and her daughter knew it. She was only four years old.

You see, when parents say things and end up not doing them, they become empty threats — words without any back-up.

Following through is critical in raising a responsible adult. You need to be kind, clear, and concise.

The child has to know that you mean business. If you tell them they’re not having a sleepover unless their homework is done, then the homework better be done. If it’s not, there will be no sleepover.

It doesn’t matter if you had plans with your friends or a date with your husband. Just make sure that whatever the consequences are for your kids’ bad behavior, you can back it up with action.

6. Focus on Positive Qualities

There is an old American proverb that says, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease/oil.” It is used to communicate the notion that the most clamorous problems are the ones that will more than likely get noticed.

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If your child is well-behaved and minding their own business, you might be tempted to let them be. On the other hand, if they are acting out and making a raucous, they may get a lot of attention.

This sends the message that the kids have to misbehave before you focus on them. Bad attention, after all, is better than no attention.

Positive attention is paramount. If you only pay attention to your child’s negative behavior while ignoring their positive qualities, you are robbing them the chance of being their best selves.

Simply notice all the things you love about your kids and minimize the criticisms. That’s especially essential when you have children between the ages 0 and 5. Since they are impressionable, whatever you say often will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Here are more ideas on how to think positively despite the circumstance: Turn to the Bright Side: 10 Ways to Encourage Post-Incident Positive Thinking

7. Apologize When Necessary

We all make mistakes. There are some parents, however, who don’t apologize no matter how many mistakes they make with their children. They incorrectly assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness.

Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. As we have learned before,[2]

“Apologizing to your child is a sign of respect for the overall relationship you have with him.”

Making mistakes is human. I guarantee you that your child will not think less of you. If you fail to apologize, you miss out on a teachable moment about the importance of taking responsibility. After all, you want your child to apologize when they do something wrong.

If the kids lie, lash out at another child, or break something of value, you want them to own up to it and apologize for what’s happened. It is during these moments that you teach your child that an apology is the right course of action. If you don’t do the same thing, what exactly are you teaching them?

You may find it difficult to apologize because you feel superior or fear losing your authority. In truth, your child will see you as a human, and they may feel closer to you than ever.

Show your kid that no one is perfect, that you all make mistakes in life. Apologies can correct so many wrongs. Just a few simple words can cure the worst transgressions.

A word for the wise: put your ego aside. Say you’re sorry and move on. If you can do that, you will be building a strong relationship — one based on love and respect — with your children.

8. Allow Kids to Be Who They Want to Be

My maternal grandfather, Pánfilo D. Camacho, was a lawyer and author in Havana, Cuba.[3] He expected my uncle, Jorge Camacho, to follow in his footsteps.[4] My uncle, however, wanted to be an artist and fulfill his dreams in Paris, France.

At the time, my grandfather did not see art as a “real job” or something that could provide security. Despite knowing how his father felt, my uncle met with him and explained that his goals. Thankfully, my grandfather thought about it and gave his only son his blessing. He also helped with all the necessary expenses to get my uncle to Paris and study with the best of the best.

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My uncle became a very celebrated artist in France. Jorge Camacho’s amazing surrealist art is still sold today.

This scenario could have played out quite differently if my grandfather dug in his heels. He could have forced my uncle to become a lawyer just like him.

Fortunately, he realized that allowing my uncle to be who he wanted to be was the right thing to do. And it was. My uncle was grateful and made a name for himself. My grandfather was proud, and their relationship grew strong.

Allow your child to be who they want to be, not who you think they should be. After all, it is their life — their journey. You’re just there to watch and provide guidance whenever necessary.

9. Grow Along With Your Children

Children grow and evolve, just like us. It’s important to grow with them and adjust the way you discipline and talk to them.

For example, if your 4-year-old misbehaves by bending the truth or whining, you may ignore their antics and stay calm with regards to the lying. This is common for this age group.

If you’re dealing with an 8-year-old, your child understands the difference between right and wrong and looks to you for guidance.[5]

Meanwhile, teens need to be addressed in another way. That is a difficult and challenging age group — one that deserves great care and attention. You cannot talk to your 16-year-old as if they were still 9!

10. Validate Their Feelings

While growing up, lots of things that generate a multitude of feelings happen. As a parent, you want to take the time to validate your child’s feelings. Don’t be dismissive and act like their feelings are not important.

The other day, my 8.5-year-old granddaughter came over. I could see that she’d been crying. When I asked if she was, she looked at me with sad eyes. My granddaughter informed me that she missed her best friend whom she hadn’t seen for almost six months since the community quarantine began.

I didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it; you’ll see her someday! Now, run along.” Nope. I looked her in the eye and said, “It must be so tough not to see your best friend for such a long time.”

My granddaughter’s eyes welled up with tears as she nodded. I validated her feelings, and she felt heard. As it turned out, her little friend was allowed to visit the next day. She came over to my house again, but this time, she exclaimed, “This is the happiest day of my quarantine!”

If you do not validate your child’s feelings, they will think that their feelings are unimportant and learn not to share them at all. You don’t want that, of course.

You want to have your finger on the pulse of their emotions. You need to make sure they come to you in the future when heavier things come down the pipe.

Here’s an example of WHAT NOT TO SAY: Your teenage daughter comes to you and utters, “Richard broke up with me. I’m devastated!” Then, you reply, “Don’t worry about it! There is plenty of fish in the sea — probably even better ones. You’re too young anyway.” You might as well have stabbed her in the heart.

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Instead of doing that, try saying, “That is heartbreaking. You must really be hurting. If you want to talk, I’m here to listen.”

Listen and communicate with compassion.

11. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Whenever I used to pick up my 16-year-old grandson from school, I’d make the mistake of asking, “How was school today?”

You can probably guess the answer. It was always the same, “Good!” Just one lonely word.

So, I decided on another approach: asking open-ended questions. The next time I picked him up, I asked, “So, what was the best part of your day?”

It was impossible for my grandson to just reply, “Good.” He was forced to stop and think about some incidents that already happened. It doesn’t matter what they tell you; the key is to get them to talk. That’s how you learn what’s going on in their lives.

This not only works with children but also with adults. For example, when you ask someone, “Do you like your job?”, they may answer yes or no. But if you say, “What do you like or dislike about your job?”, you’ll get a lot of information.

Open-ended questions are the key to getting more information than you’ll know what to do with!

Final Thoughts

Being a good and responsible parent can be one of the most rewarding tasks in the world. It is not effortless, however. It takes a lot of work and patience.

Implementing the above-mentioned 11 suggestions won’t guarantee a perfect family, but you will have a solid base to build and grow upon.

Your child is a reflection of you. What do you wish them to reflect?

Learn how to be a better parent and help produce a legacy of outstanding humans.

More on Improving Your Parenting Skills

Featured photo credit: Gabe Pierce via unsplash.com

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