With close to 50% of marriages ending in divorce and defacto relationships failing at a higher rate. Divorce can be a tough time for not only the couple but also the children.

We know children are resilient; however, we are also more aware of the escalating anxiety issues children are displaying. How then can we ensure they cope better?

Kids know when things are not going well. They can feel when a parent is distressed or angry. They not only can hear the words, but they can also read body language and pick up minor non-verbal cues. Girls are especially good at these body language indicators.

We all understand the challenge of separation of divorce. If you haven’t been through it personally chances are you most certainly know someone who has and who has been detrimentally affected. This effect is felt emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and financially. It can change the way you parent your child, the time you can spend with them and the tolerance of behaviours they may display.

Communication is the top tip for parents

The challenge here is to keep your language civil, monotone and impartial. Problem is, if you are seething inside, these non-verbal cues will be seen or felt by the kids. Of course, divorce affects the children, regardless of how you try to protect them. It doesn’t mean it is all bad. Research tells us children being raised in a single parent home free of conflict will thrive compared to those in a 2-parent conflictual home.

Tips to help you and the children survive and thrive

Using positive language to communicate what is occurring – regardless of who left or ended the relationship, using positive language is far more beneficial than negative words that will only worry the children and cause distress. If the other parent behaved poorly, rather than denigrating their actions (which you can discuss privately with them only) you could say, “oh gosh that was so silly, daddy/mummy knows better than that”.

Never denigrating the other parent – regardless of how angry or disappointed you are, the children have two parents they love. Even if the children are angry with either or both of you, never speak harshly about their other parent. They can do that, but you cannot.

No placing blame rather discuss it was a mutual agreement – even if disappointed or angry the relationship has split, chances are both of you knew issues were looming. Blame has no place for the children’s wellbeing. Saying things like “she/he bailed out on us” should be replaced with, “we decided it would be best to live separately for a while”. Children can accept for a while as even though it is happening, forever is too much to contemplate at first. Who knows what may happen months in the future anyway, right?

Consistency for children seeing both parents is essential – children love both parents and withholding the children is detrimental to them, unless of course there is a valid legal reason. Regardless of who the other person may have acted toward you, they are the other parent of the kids and they deserve to spend time with their parent regardless of how you personally feel.

Never show the child text messages or read the message – there is parent business and child business and never the two should cross. Never repeat conversations or show text messages to the children, this is between you and their other parent only.

Get professional help to assist you in recovering and managing any levels of distress – separation or divorce is filled with many emotions, fear and anger. You are mourning the loss of your relationship and this will take some time to process and recover. This can be aided considerably with quality counselling, enabling you to compartmentalise what has occurred and start on a new recovery road for a better life ahead.

Non-verbal cues are as important as verbal language – be aware of your non-verbal cues. The eye roll, the small undertone comment, the angry face and closed body position. Kids pick up on all these without you ever needing to say a word.

Keep communication with the children open – while we never blame or ridicule the other parent, it is imperative we continue to speak to the children on how they feel and answer their questions, so their fear is allayed as the unknown is a child’s worst enemy. Allow the child to express their feelings and concerns, never telling them they are wrong but showing interest as to the reason they feel as they do.

Encourage the children to spend time with the other parent – children deserve to spend time with both parents regardless of how you may feel about the other parent. Explain to the children when they will be spending time with their other parent so they are aware of when they will be seeing them.

The only things kids need to know is who they are staying with, when they are spending time with their other parent and that both parents love them dearly. Of course, also knowing their parents are mature, intelligent individuals can also help significantly regardless of how challenging it may be for each parent.

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