Children and Divorce

Post by: Sandra Wasserman
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Helping your kids cope with the effects of separation and divorce

As parents, it is normal to feel uncertain about how to provide your child the right support through your divorce or separation during a time that is already unsettling for the parents, however, there are many ways you can help your child adjust to separation or divorce.  Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances.  By providing routines, kids get the message that they can rely on you for stability and structure which is essential for the whole family.  If you can maintain a working relationship with their other parents, you can help kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict.  

To help your children i the beginning, if possible have both parents present when telling the children about the divorce.  Discuss what you will tell the children before hand, also keep the explanations simple and avoid blame. Use general statements such as Mom or Dad can't live together anymore, or Mom and Dad have decided we would be happier living in different homes.  

  • Tell your children that the divorce is not their fault.  Children need to understand the decision to divorce had nothing to do with them or their behavior.  Kids should also know that there is nothing they can do to change what is happening in the family, nor is it their responsibility to fix the family.  
  • Let your children know that you love them, and help them understand that the love shared between a parent ad child is different than the love shared between a husband and wife.  Kids need to know that the love you have for them will last forever.
  • Reinforce that it is okay for the children to love both mom and dad.  Children should not feel like they have to take sides or worry about losing the love of either parent.
  • Listen to your children and support their right to have feelings about what is happening in their lives.  Help them find safe and healthy ways to express those feelings.

Adjustment factors affect how children are able to cope with divorce.  Researches have estimated that the period of adjustment for families can range anywhere from one to three years, and sometimes even as long as five depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce.  The following are factors that may affect the adjustment period:

  • Level of conflict between parents
  • Information children are given regarding the divorce 
  • level of support available to the children
  • the personality and ability of each child to deal with stress can have an impact on how quickly they adjust
  • Age and developmental level of children

One of the most important skills a parent can have is being a good listener.  While it sounds simple, many parents have a difficult time putting it into practice, especially since during a divorce, they may be feeling emotionally drained.  If you can, listen to your child without trying to fix, judge, criticize or change their feelings. 

As parents, we have a strong desire to spare our children from unpleasant, hurtful, or difficult situations.  Since divorce can stir up a lot of those experiences, we may try to shield our children by "fixing" the problem, or trying to convince them that they really don't feel that way.  Unfortunately, our good intentions can be damaging when children are not allowed the opportunity to solve their own problems or have their feelings acknowledged.  They are deprived of building both self-esteem and self-confidence, and it may be difficult for children to identify how they feel if they never receive validation of certain feelings.

Boundaries

Post by: Sandra Wasserman
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Tune Into your feelings - when you feel discomfort or resentment during an interaction or when you're in a situation, ask yourself what is causing those feelings to come up.  Resentment usually comes from feeling taken advantage of or not feeling appreciated.  This can be a sign that you are the one pushing yourself beyond your own limits because you feel guilty or someone else is imposing their expectations, views, and values on you.  When you feel uncomfortable, its a cue that someone is crossing your boundaries.  

Practice self-awareness: If you feel resentment or stress, its your first cue that you have been pushed beyond your limits or your own boundaries have been crossed.

Consider your past and your present: How were you raised as a child?  What role you played as a child will greatly influence your ability in setting and sustaining boundaries.  Take notice of the people you surround yourself with.  Do they take more than they give?  Are your relationships reciprocal?

What is Sensory Integration?

Post by: Sandra Wasserman
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Everyday we receive a great deal of information from our senses.  We use this information to organize our behavior and successfully interact in the world.  What happens if one or more of our senses are not being interpreted properly?  A child with vague or hazy feedback about his sense of touch, body position, or movement and gravity is in a world totally foreign to ours.  You would not feel the usual security, safety, and fun that other children experience.  When the process of sensory integration is disordered, a number of problems in learning, motor development, or behavior may be observed.