Raising children is no easy task, especially when your support is fairly non-existent and you’re going through a separation or divorce. My call of duty meant that I would be working with families through this difficult and trying journey, while watching the children being side-lined in the discussions.
Some people claim that children are resilient and therefore don’t need any attention, so over the years I’ve attended workshops/seminars and courses to understand parenting skills. To this day my research continues in helping parents find a balance between being a responsible parent and being an overwhelmed parent during difficult days.
The first step is that you need to realise that your children have a voice and you need to take time to listen. The second step is that no matter their age, they still look to both of their parents for kindness, care and nurturing. Lastly, you need to understand that you are the only ones who will protect their well-being, so they need you both to be on the same page when it comes to looking out for them.
“Don’t get distracted by the turmoil caused by the divorce or separation; let them know that you are still there for them.”
Here are some tips I have put together to help you cope when you find yourself in a relationship crisis (divorce or separation) and your children are caught in the middle:
- You could have had a rough day negotiating and meeting with lawyers but when you get home put on a smile and hold onto your child no matter their age. Even for a little while.
- Your children could have overheard an argument you had with their other parent and might feel anxious that they are at fault for all the hostility. Remind them that you both love them and will always take care of them. Then remind yourself to try and never have an argument in front of your children again.
- As much as it is difficult for you that your relationship is coming to an end, it is breaking their little hearts that their family as they know it is falling apart. Tell the other parent that your goal together will be to always protect their hearts during and after the separation or divorce.
- Say “I love you” to your child before they fall asleep. End the day reassuring them that you are still their mother/father and that they are loved.
- If your children are older (in their teen years, where any shift in normalcy will cause tension), find more days where you share laughter than when you have disagreements. Make a game out of it and keep count of the days e.g. Laughter 5 – Argument 1. Do not forget your responsibility to understand that they are entering their own relationships also and how you handle each day is a reflection on how they will handle their own breakups.
- Make time to listen to them, whether they want to talk about their day or even when they ask for your time to just catch up. Don’t get distracted by the turmoil caused by the divorce or separation; let them know that you are still there for them. Your child needs reassurance that indeed it will be over and you will all survive it. Failing to address the need for them to talk might cause you to overlook any underlying fears and concerns they might have.
- While communicating with your child, do not be negative. Speak to them about the future and make plans to do activities together. For instance, plan to go to a library and get a book that you read as a child for you to read to them; plan to go for ice cream, or plan how you can both tackle a difficult subject at school whether it be watching videos on the subject or reading up about it. Even if you sit with them for 20 minutes and watch their favourite TV show, just holding them will be time well spent for both of you.
The content of this article is for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For more information on how to manage parenting while experiencing a divorce or separation contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.fairpractice.co.za.