I had a conversation today with one of my new clients about how to manage the emotions of the minor children during the initial stages of the divorce. An article from Dennis Ortman is helpful and I have cited it below. I do feel that along with parents learning how to manage the worries and questions from minor children in the first weeks of a divorce, parents can truly benefit from reaching out to support groups for children through local churches, or accessing a therapist that works with children in divorce.
Divorce can be an emotionally and psychologically difficult process for adults, leaving the parents with few resources to channel to the children. In these cases, it’s best to reach out to other resources in the community to provide emotional and psychological support to children, as well as to give them a forum, independent of the family circle, to process their anxieties, worries and concerns.
HOW CAN I MINIMIZE THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF OUR DIVORCE ON OUR CHILDREN?
By Dennis Ortman
Recognizing that the disruption of divorce is difficult on everyone-yourself, your partner, and your children-there are things you can do to help during this transition time:
1. Avoid fighting in the presence of your children. The conflict will only increase their anxiety. Certainly, you will have disagreements with your partner, but keep them as private as possible.
2. Assure your children that they are not responsible for the problems in your marriage. Younger children normally think of themselves as the center of the universe, creating an illusion of control over their environment to compensate for feelings of helplessness. They may believe that you are divorcing because of something they did.
3. Frequently assure your children that both you and your partner love them and will never abandon them, even if you live apart. Children need to maintain an emotional bond with both parents. It is important that you and your spouse assure them with both words and actions.
4. Resist the impulse to blame your spouse for the divorce or elicit your children as allies. Children experience an impossible bind if they believe they must take sides in your dispute.
5. Do not burden your children with too much responsibility. Let them continue to be children. During the transition you may feel overwhelmed and need more help from them. Be careful not to overburden them.
6. Do not lean on your children for emotional support. That will overburden them emotionally and divide their loyalties. Seek your support from family, friends, and therapy.
7. Do not let your children manipulate you. You may feel guilty for causing them pain and want to make up for it by overindulging them. Your children need to know that you are still the authority in the family, even if you are feeling distress.
From the book by Dennis Ortman