8 Ways To Help Your Children Get Through A Divorce (While Keeping Your Own Sanity)
In late 2016, my marriage was over. This is not about who was at fault or who wasn’t, nor is it about anything regarding the marriage. This is about how I learned to walk with my children through the process and how I learned to keep my sanity during it all.
- Safe Space: No matter how “well” your child seems to be dealing with the transition, they have their own thoughts and feelings that need to be processed properly to help them. Sometimes the way kids interpret situations can be incorrect. They need a safe space to be able to voice their feelings, thoughts, and concerns. They need to know they’ll be heard, and their thoughts and feelings will be respected. Naturally, they are going to have questions, answer them as appropriately as possible. While they don’t need to know all the details, they do need to hear some truth. In other words, don’t pacify them. If details are not appropriate for them, let them know you don’t want to share that with them at this point in time because you feel it’s best for them. Don’t shut down on them though. They need you.
- Take Care Of Yourself: Your kids will watch you for cues on how to care for themselves during this transition. You have to show your kids by example that they need to care for themselves as well. Spend time in prayer, meditation, exercise, or whatever else makes you feel good. Personally, hot baths are therapeutic for me, so I try to take the time to take one once a week. Allow your children to take some “me” time and recoup for themselves. For my kids, that means spending time drawing, reading, kicking back, etc.
- Never badmouth the other parent: Trust me, you will get angry and frustrated with the other parent. It’s inevitable. However, when you badmouth the other parent, your child or children can’t help but take it personally, as they love their other parent. It can make them feel like they’re in the middle and have to choose between their parents. That’s a conflict that your children really do not need, especially during an already trying time for them. More than likely, the other parent will assume that you are bad-mouthing them. Don’t prove them right. Be better than that. It’ll work in your favor later on when you see you never put your children in the position to have to choose or to listen to the negative about their other parent.
- Keep the details to yourself: Unless the details of the breakdown of the marriage have to deal with the children directly, it’s best to keep the details to yourself. Children should not have to bear the burden of learning the details of the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. Some children internalize and can perceive the details to be due to them. Either way, the details are unnecessary to be shared with the kids. If you need to share, share with your girlfriends that you know you can trust. Just don’t share it with the children. Some details can forever alter the way the child looks at their parents.
- Nurture your village: Every woman needs to have a village. You need to have that circle of people in your life that you can turn to for laughter, restoration, love, and more. This village is helpful for the children too. There will be times when you can’t be everything to your children at the same time and sometimes one of the people in your village can help your children. An example of that is when my son came home from school with math problems that I was unfamiliar with. I grew up in an era where common core was not the norm. Now, it is and I have no idea how to get on board with it. So my brother was able to figure it out and help my son. My son and I were both pretty frustrated, but having that village able to help when we need it makes a huge difference. I also have a friend who has 2 sons. My kids love to go to her house and spend time with her kids. She’s one of the few people outside of my family who I trust with my children, so it’s a huge help when my kids can go over there and enjoy themselves. It gives me a small break and allows me to unwind and get some much-needed rest.
- Acknowledge the good days and the bad: You will have both good and bad days. There is no getting around that. The process of a divorce is very similar to the death of a loved one. You and your children will go through a cycle of different emotions. Remember to be gentle with yourself, and to apply that same gentleness to your kids. Just like your emotions are on a tailspin cycle, their emotions are doing the same thing. While you have the better understanding of the situation, they may also be going through feelings of helplessness because they have no say in the situation. Allow yourself and your kids to process those emotions and be gentle with yourselves. Acknowledge that some of the days are good and some will be rough. Be okay with the rough days. They won’t last.
- Let your kids be kids: This is a transitional time for you and the kids, allow them to be children. Let your kids run around outside and play. Let them play with friends and get together with family. When possible, encourage them to get active in extracurricular activities they may be interested in within their schools. Take weekend trips as a family, even if they’re local. Let your kids know it’s okay for them to still be kids and enjoy themselves. It’s important to them.
- Isolation is a dangerous thing: While it may be easy to retreat into your own space and isolate, it’s not good for you to your children. When you isolate, your children can feel like they were abandoned and left alone to go through this emotional process. Isolation can be a very dangerous thing for you and your children. Isolation can lead to depression and other issues, even suicide. My daughter has a habit of isolating when she’s emotional. It’s her coping mechanism. I allow her to spend a certain amount of time alone, but then that’s it. It’s time to rejoin the family and spend some healing time together. When people isolate, it rarely turns out to be beneficial for their mental health. That goes for adults and children.
While this is a trying process to go through with children, please know that it does pass. In some cases, the parents can peacefully co-parent and even attend functions together to celebrate the children. After all, that is the ideal situation. So it may feel like this storm will last forever, it won’t. It’s just a storm and will pass. You and your children will weather the storm and can come out on the other side even stronger. Here’s wishing you the best of healing for you and your children. If you have any other tips to share, feel free to comment. We’d love to hear it!