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Published on June 19, 2018

How To Raise Healthy, Happy Kids After Going Through a Divorce

How To Raise Healthy, Happy Kids After Going Through a Divorce

I have had several friends vow to never marry in life because they were so traumatized by their parent’s divorce.

Divorce can be extremely difficult on children. Many times they don’t understand why the divorce had to happen or they may blame themselves as the cause of the divorce. They can also develop a deep distain for the covenant of marriage because of their parent’s bitter divorce or because of the bad behavior of one or both parents following the divorce.

It is important that parents do certain things in order to help the children process the divorce, not blame themselves and still develop in a healthy manner mentally, socially and emotionally. You want your kids to someday have healthy, happy lives and relationships, so help them following the divorce by doing some very specific things, which I will outline below.

1. Get along for the sake of the kids

Keep your arguments away from the eyes and ears of your children. They do not need to be subject to your on-going battles following a divorce.

Some couples report that they get along better with their ex following a divorce. Unfortunately, this is not what most couples experience. You will be going through your own grieving process following the dissolution of a marriage. Do not use your children as your personal counselor and confidant. Seek professional help, so you have someone trusted to vent to who can also provide you with wise counsel.

Keep the conversations about your ex out of eyesight and earshot of your children. It can only harm them. Think of it this way, they are 50% of that other person who you now reject. They can take that rejection personally as they are half of that person. Especially if you are vocal about your disdain for your ex. Your ex is still their parent and if they are not adopted, then they are 50% of that person’s DNA makeup. They can fear your rejection and also think that there are parts of them that you don’t like just as much as you don’t like your ex.

There are situations where you may not be able to avoid your ex someday, such as parent/teacher conferences, weddings, and graduations. Learn to put on a good face and keep your conversations on the surface if interaction is required. Use simple pleasantries as though you are standing in line at the grocery store and you see a colleague from work. “How are you” and “nice weather we have been having” is enough to get through the awkward silence and still maintain a good image to your children.

You can then vent your frustrations regarding your ex to your counselor. There is a time and a place for everything. Blowing off steam to your ex in front of your children is never acceptable. Ranting to your counselor about your ex in the privacy of their office is a much better solution. It’s not that you need to bottle things in forever, it is merely holding on to things until the time is right to release those emotions in a setting that won’t harm your children.

Life is hard enough having to live in two homes, to have time away from one parent while being with the other. It was not their choice nor their preference. Make the transition easier by trying to get along with your ex when you are face to face. If that is of great difficulty then keep the interactions to a minimum. This can be something that is added at a later date into your custody agreement if needed.

Custody exchanges

Custody exchanges are typically when most parents have to see one another the most. Therefore, chose a neutral place for exchange that allows for exchange of the children from one parent to another to happen with ease and little interaction.

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Select a location where a lot of people are present, so there is less likely to be any outbursts or unneeded language by either parent. Keep in mind that there are eyes and ears watching. The most important are those of your children, so keep this in mind when you see your ex and emotions flare inside of you.

I was a stepmom to two children in a previous marriage. I was in their lives for eight years. My experience with both the mom and the dad proved to me that even intelligent, well meaning parents can come unglued at the wrong times and the wrong place when provoked by their ex. Sometimes the mere presence of the ex can be enough to push a person over the edge.

Therefore, the custody exchange, if it can’t be done face to face, can be done from one vehicle to another and the parents remain in their respective vehicles. Only the children get out of the vehicle and move into the other parent’s vehicle. This can help minimize contact and potentially negative interactions that would adversely affect the children. Of course, the children need to be old enough to move independently from one vehicle to the next.

In cases where this is not possible, there are locations associated with some social service agencies that allow for parental exchange, where one parent drops off with a caregiver at the agency and the other parents arrives 15 minutes later to pick up the child. These are sometimes called family resource centers. Check with your local social service agency if you require such a service.

2. Tell them the truth but filter for their age

Do not lie to your child and say that one parent is just moving out for a little while. If you are getting a divorce then you need to tell your children that fact.

However, they do not need to know all the specifics or details. What is usually sufficient is an explanation that although mommy and daddy are no longer going to be married, they still love the kids 100%. Kids need reassurance that it is not their fault and they need to be told they are loved. Not just once, but often, especially following a divorce when the situation can be new, challenging and different from their old life.

If you haven’t told your children that you are getting or are already divorced (yes this happens) then here is a video from Parents.com with tips on telling your children about your divorce:

3. Allow your child to grieve

Grief is the very normal process of going through stages of emotion because of an intense life change. Grief happens not only to the spouses when the marriage ends, but it also happens to the children.

The intensity of emotions varies from one child to the next. The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. These stages can be experienced in varying orders and some stages are sometimes repeated.

It is important to recognize that these feelings are a normal part of your child processing the divorce. Allow them to speak to you about their feelings openly. Getting their feelings out though spoken or written word will help them process through these stages.

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Encourage your child to use “I feel” statements and to discuss their feelings about the divorce with you. Avoid becoming defensive or trying to “fix” their feelings. Allow them to talk openly, empathize with them and let them own their feelings by speaking them aloud to you.

4. Get them some counseling

There are some kids that transition smoothly in life following a divorce. However, there are some kids that do not fare as well.

You, as the parent, must be cognoscente of your child’s behavior and any abnormal behavior that warrants professional help. Here are some behaviors to be aware of and keep an eye out for:

  • Increase in temper tantrums and outbursts
  • Difficulties at school such as grades that have dropped
  • Difficulties/ arguments with their peers have increased
  • Getting in trouble at school
  • Development of an eating disorder
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depressed behaviors: lack of interest in life and/or feelings of hopelessness. See this article for more specific details on how to recognize depression in children: Signs of Depression in Children and How to Help Them to Overcome It
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

If your child exhibits one or more of these problems, then you need to seriously consider getting them professional help. Especially in the case of mental or emotional disorders such as depression and eating disorders, professional help is in the best interest of the child and their development.

If in doubt whether your child needs counseling, it is better to err on the side of being proactive and getting them help. You may be helping to prevent the development of a mental or emotional disorder down the road. Counseling is especially beneficial in teaching children coping skills, helping them process their thoughts and emotions and empowering them to live confidently, regardless of their parent’s marital status.

Group counseling

An option that is often overlooked is group counseling or support groups. These groups can be especially beneficial for children because it can help them feel that they are not alone. They can see and meet other children who are going through the same experience as them.

There is a an organization called DivorceCare for Kids. This organization provides leaders with training and resources to facilitate support groups for children who are going through or have gone through a parental divorce situation. Here is what their website says about this organization:

Are your children angry, hurt, and confused about your separation or divorce? A DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) group is a safe, fun place where your children can learn skills that will help them heal. DC4K groups blend, games, music, stories, videos and discussion to help kids process the divorce and move forward. Groups meet weekly and are designed for children ages 5-12.

Here is their website, where you can type in your location and find a group near you: https://www.dc4k.org/. This weekly group meets for 13 consecutive weeks. They cover a different topic each week, including these topics along with 8 others:

  • What’s Happening to My Family?
  • I am Not Alone
  • Developing New Relationships
  • It’s Not My Fault
  • Telling My Parents How I Feel

Enrolling your child in a DivorceCare for Kids group can help them immensely during this difficult time in their lives. Even if they show no signs of emotional or mental problems following a divorce that does not mean that there aren’t any issues. Some kids will repress their emotions until a later time.

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Getting them help sooner will help them process the reality of their situation. Using a professional group like DivorceCare is helping your child, more than you can help them yourself. This is good parenting.

5. Don’t say anything bad about the other parent

Resist the temptation to say anything negative about the other parent to your child.

Even if that parent has walked out on the family and left you as a single parent, avoid the temptation to bad mouth the other parent. Why? Because that child still has love in their heart for their parent. They are also made up of 50% you and 50% the other parent. Don’t talk bad about the other parent because your child can take it very personal.

You also want your child to have healthy relationships with both parents in the long run. If one parent is bad mouthing the other parent, it becomes very confusing and emotionally taxing for the child. Use the old saying as your motto “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

6. Maintain consistency and a routine

Kids thrive on structure and routine. They need to maintain their routines as much as possible in both household. Both parents should work together to come to a common ground on some basic routine objectives such as set bed times, homework rules, types of video games and movies allowed (ratings based decision), and basic rules of conduct for the children.

Neither parent has control over the other parent or their household, nor will things be exactly the same at both households. The goal is to set up some basic guidelines for both households so that the routines for the children can remain intact. This will help the children transition more easily from one home to the other. It will also help the children see that the parents are working together and that they are putting the children’s best interest first.

It can be highly tempting to become lax on the rules following a divorce because you feel bad that the children are subjected to this situation. However, this is when children need structure and guidance the most. They need to know that you are still their parent and their rock. Don’t go soft and allow their world to crumble by allowing behaviors that are going to come back to bite you later.

For example, if you allow your child to stay up playing video games until 9 pm every night when their bed time is actually 8 pm, you are going to have a highly overtired, sleep deprived and crabby child over time. Keeping their best interests in mind, means keeping their routine and their discipline the same, not more lax because you feel bad.

7. Get some books for kids about coping with divorce

There are a plethora of books on the market targeted for kids who are coping with divorce. They are available for all ages of children too.

A simple search on Amazon in their children’s book category will provide you with many options. Read the descriptions of the books to find what may best suite your child. Also read the reviews to find a book that other parents have found to be useful in helping their children. There are also workbooks by a variety of authors available to kids who are able to read and write.

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Just make sure you look at the age guidelines for the materials you are purchasing to ensure you are investing your money on the best options for your children.

8. Resolve parenting conflicts with the kids in mind

There are going to be parenting issues that come up over time. It is unavoidable. The key is to resolve these working as partners. You may not be partners in marriage anymore but you are still partners in raising your children.

Put the kids first. When issues arise, make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the children. This may sound so simple and easy but it will not always be easy.

For example, you may plan to remarry and want to go on a two week honeymoon. Your ex, however, does not want to change the custody schedule to accommodate your honeymoon. If you deviate from the schedule you will be in violation of your agreement, which could put your joint custody status in jeopardy.

So, rather than taking that lovely two week honeymoon, you go away for a long weekend with your new spouse so that you can be back on time for the scheduled custody exchange to maintain your joint custody and the lives of the children remain uninterrupted.

By the way, this is a true story. It happens. At the end of the day your responsibility to your children is the priority. Your previous marriage no longer exists but the children and their well being is still at stake.

When tough parenting issues come up, make decisions based on what is best for the child. It is not about winning or losing. It is not about your ex getting their way or you getting your way. The goal is to raise the children in the best possible manner for the situation that you are all in at this time.

That will require sacrifice on your part at times. Just keep reminding yourself that what you are doing is for the greater good, which is keeping the interests of the children as the priority.

Do what’s best for the kids

With over 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, there are a great deal of children growing up in divorced households. It is up to parents to help their child cope with the divorce and process their emotions.

Sometimes professional help is in the best interest of the child. Be open to the possibility that your child may be best helped with professional help such as counseling or a support group. At the end of the day you need to be doing what is best for your child.

Working with the other parent also means that you need to keep your own emotional baggage about the other parent away from the eyes and ears of your child. Work with your ex to set up routines that keep the lives of your children consistent and stable for both households.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on March 13, 2019

What Makes A Great Place to Work Whilst Pregnant

What Makes A Great Place to Work Whilst Pregnant

Among women who had their first child in the early 1960s, just 44% worked at all during pregnancy. The latest figures show that 66% of mothers who gave birth to their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancy.[1]  It also showed that about eight-in-ten pregnant workers (82%) continued in the workplace until within one month of their first birth which has vastly increased from 35%. It is clear to see form the statical trends that more women are choosing to continue working through, and late into, pregnancy.

Unlike other developed world countries, the USA does not mandate any paid leave for new mothers under federal law,[2] though some individual employers make that accommodation and it is mandated by a handful of individual states. Finding what makes a great workplace whilst pregnant can alleviate stress and provide more stability for you and your family. 

In this article, you will discover exactly the best places to work whilst pregnant.

How Difficult Is It to Work Whilst Pregnant?

Many people strive to find and attain good jobs. For pregnant women, however, that process is often especially challenging. After all, you’ll face extra obstacles that are unique to expectant mothers.

If you are pregnant and need a job, then you’re definitely not alone. You are also not alone if you’re already employed and want to find a new job that is more family-friendly. Changing jobs while pregnant is something that many women consider, especially when they realise that their current positions may not be suitable for pregnancy or offer the benefits or flexibility that they’ll soon need. 

Getting a job while pregnant may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is possible.

You can look for employment opportunities that don’t require too much physical exertion and that won’t cause you much emotional stress. Also, look for jobs that come with the chance to work flexible hours, offer good medical benefits, allow you to take time off as needed, and don’t require a long commute. In addition, it’s obviously wise to consider avoiding jobs that may expose you to toxins, people with communicable illnesses, or other physical hazards.

The Pre-Natal Mamma’s Needs

During pregnancy, there are many mental and physiological changes that a woman will go through. In understanding those changes, it is more clear which types of jobs and workplaces are more suited to you as a pregnant woman. 

During pregnancy, the birth of your baby and the postnatal period, changes in the hormones in your body can have an effect on your emotions during pregnancy. These hormones and the changes can cause joy, fear, surprise and anxiety all of which can be assisted with necessary support and talking. 

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The physiological changes are more varied according to each trimester:

1st Trimester (0-13 weeks)

In the first few weeks following conception, your hormone levels change significantly. Your uterus begins to support the growth of the placenta and the fetus, your body adds to its blood supply to carry oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby, and your heart rate increases.

These changes accompany many of the pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue, morning sickness, headaches, and constipation. During the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage is significant.

2nd Trimester (13 – 27 weeks)

While the discomforts of early pregnancy should ease off, there are a few new symptoms to get used to. Common complaints include leg cramps and heartburn. You might find yourself growing more of an appetite, and your weight gain will accelerate. 

3rd Trimester (28 weeks – birth)

Travel restrictions take effect during the third trimester. It’s advised that you stay in relatively close proximity to your doctor or midwife in case you go into labor early. The baby is growing bigger and stronger; the kicks can be quite powerful and your abdomen is becoming larger and heavier.

Stretch marks may develop if they haven’t earlier in the pregnancy. Braxton-Hicks contractions- which are usually perceived as painless tightening can be felt. Lower back pain is very common and there may be more pelvic pressure and with this more frequent urination. 

Swollen legs and feet are very common as are increased fatigue, interrupted sleep and a reduced ability to eat a full meal at one sitting.

4th Trimester (Post birth onwards)

Your baby’s fourth trimester starts from the moment she’s born and lasts until she is three months old. The term is used to describe a period of great change and development in your newborn, as she adjusts to her new world outside your womb. There are many adaptations, recovery and rest that you and your baby need through this trimester whether you have a natural or c-section birth.

All of these considerations need to be in mind when looking to find a great workplace whilst pregnant — whether you’re looking to ask for more support from your current workplace, find a new job or enter employment. 

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Next, let’s look at the factors that would define the opposite; somewhere you shouldn’t look to work whilst pregnant.

How to Spot The Worst Workplaces to Work Whilst Pregnant

1. Non-Negotiable Heavy Lifting

Do you have to lift, push, bend, shove, and load materials all day? If you do, many experts believe you should ask for a job reassignment or quit by the 20th week of pregnancy.

2. Toxic Environments

The list of jobs that involve dangerous substances is miles long. Consider the artist who works with paint and solvents all day, the dry cleaner who breathes in cleaning fumes, the agricultural or horticultural worker who works with pesticides, the photographer who uses toxic chemicals to develop pictures, the tollbooth attendant who breathes in car and truck exhaust, or the printer who works with lead substances.

3. Proximity to People with Communicable Illnesses

Working with or exposure to certain bacteria, viruses, or other infectious agents could increase your chances of having a miscarriage, a baby with a birth defect, or other reproductive problems.  Some infections can pass to an unborn baby during pregnancy and cause a miscarriage or birth defect. Infections like seasonal influenza (the flu) and pneumonia can cause more serious illness in pregnant women.

4. Extended Hours of Standing

Cooks, nurses, salesclerks, waiters, police officers, and others, have jobs that keep them on their feet all day. This can be difficult for a pregnant woman, but it might be downright dangerous for her unborn baby. Studies have found that long hours of standing during the last half of pregnancy disrupt the flow of blood.[3]

Key Factors Creating a Great Workplace whilst Pregnant

1. Flexibility

You might feel tired as your body works overtime to support your pregnancy — and resting during the workday can be tough. Having an employer or job that provide care and is understanding to your needs is hugely beneficial.

A compassionate and empathetic employer will understand morning sickness; they will facilitate changes in working hours to accommodate your energy and assist with the smells from the work kitchen. 

They will also enable you to remain flexible to snack as and when you want to – crackers and other bland foods can be lifesavers when you feel nauseated. Nad eating small frequent meals are similarly saving you as your meal quantity decreases.

2. Compassion

More employers are learning that the idea that pregnant women are willing and necessary contributors to the economy and are capable of adding long-term value to their organizations. 

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Employers that follow good practice in maternity can improve the experience of pregnant employees and new mothers and encourage them to return to work following maternity leave.

A good relationship between a pregnant employee and her line manager is essential to the successful reintegration of the employee following maternity leave.

3. Stress Reduced

Stress on the job can sap the energy you need to care for yourself and your baby.

To minimize workplace stress, take control. Make daily to-do lists and prioritise your tasks. Consider what you can delegate to someone else — or eliminate. 

Talk it out. Share frustrations with a supportive co-worker, friend or loved one. 

Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing slowly or imagining yourself in a calm place. Try a prenatal yoga class, as long as your health care provider says it’s OK.

4. Adaptable

As your pregnancy progresses, everyday activities such as sitting and standing can become uncomfortable. Remember those short, frequent breaks to combat fatigue? Moving around every few hours also can ease muscle tension and help prevent fluid buildup in your legs and feet. 

Using an adjustable chair with good lower back support can make long hours of sitting much easier — especially as your weight and posture change. If your chair isn’t adjustable, use a small pillow or cushion to provide extra support for your back.

Elevate your legs to decrease swelling. If you must stand for long periods of time, put one of your feet up on a footrest, low stool or box. Switch feet every so often and take frequent breaks.

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Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Consider wearing support or compression hose, too.

5. Financial Support

Financial strain is one of the leading causes of peri & post natal depression. Employers can support employees by offering them benefits beyond the statutory minimum, for example training mechanisms to help them cope with balancing work and family commitments. 

The employer should conduct a performance review with the employee prior to her maternity leave to boost her confidence and encourage her to consider how parenthood and work will fit together.

Key Take-Aways

If you’re working while you’re pregnant, you need to know your rights to antenatal care, maternity leave and benefits. 

If you have any worries about your health while at work, talk to your doctor, midwife or occupational health nurse. You can also talk to your employer, union representative, or someone in the personnel department (HR) where you work. 

Once you tell your employer that you’re pregnant, they should do a risk assessment with you to see if your job poses any risks to you or your baby. If there are any risks, they have to make reasonable adjustments to remove them. This can include changing your working hours. 

If you work with chemicals, lead or X-rays, or in a job with a lot of lifting, it may be illegal for you to continue to work. In this case, your employer must offer you alternative work on the same terms and conditions as your original job. If there’s no safe alternative, your employer should suspend you on full pay (give you paid leave) for as long as necessary to avoid the risk.

Look for employment opportunities that don’t require too much physical exertion and that won’t cause you much emotional stress. Also, look for jobs that come with the chance to work flexible hours, offer good medical benefits, allow you to take time off as needed, and don’t require a long commute. 

Your current employer may need to offer you different types of work or a change to your working hours. If your employer can’t get rid of the risks (for example by finding other suitable work without any reduction in pay for you), they should offer you suspension on full pay.

Featured photo credit: Alicia Petresc via unsplash.com

Reference

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