If your child is finding it hard to cope with your separation you will be desperate for ways to help them.
Deciding to separate always comes with a huge dollop of guilt about the effect it will have on our children. Therefore, it is a parent’s nightmare if their child is struggling with the circumstances.
You might go into panic mode or even denial. However, it is important to watch for signs that your child is grappling with the situation so you can take action to support them.
Here are ten suggestions to help a struggling child find peace with your separation.
ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR STRUGGLE
Simply letting your child know you can see their pain is a great starting point. Follow that up by letting them know if is perfectly natural to feel the way they do.
Children can be confused by their feelings, and this makes it even harder to cope. Or they don’t understand why the horrible feelings won’t go away.
Explain that what they are going through is a natural process and that you are there to help them through and out the other side.
IT WON’T LAST FOREVER
Knowing that it is natural to feel sad or angry can help a little, but it doesn’t help your child to feel better, the feelings are still there and they suck.
Tell them what they are going through is just a phase and it will pass.
You can even show them this in motion. Talk to them about how they felt this time last week and compare it to how they feel today. At the same time, ensure they know there will be ups and downs. If they feel good again, it might not last but it will become more regular over time.
TALK TO THEM
Help your child to get their feelings out in the open. Let them talk and share how they feel with you.
There is a lot of truth to “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Make sure you respond to them in an age-appropriate manner with the right balance of concern whilst not manifesting their pain.
Let them know that you are always there and happy to talk with them whenever they feel they need to share.
LISTEN TO THEM
It is all very well talking to your child about the upset they feel about their parent’s separation but it is just as important to listen.
Feeling heard, especially as a child who is dwelling in a bad place, is extremely empowering and it can truly help their healing.
They might say things that are hard to hear but persevere and, even if you can’t find a suitable response, tell them that you have taken it on board with a phrase like: “I hear you and I understand what you are saying”.
SURROUND THEM WITH LOVE
For a child, the separation of their parents can feel like a large amount of love has disappeared from their world, even though that isn’t the case.
For this reason, surround them with as much love as you can. Arrange for them to spend time with friends, family members, and even pets who will shower them with love.
Remember to let them know you love them, as does the other parent, and the separation has not affected the way they are loved in any way.
Even if your child seems at peace with your separation for a period, expect that this may not last and that is normal.
As children grow older they experience life and see the world differently. As a result, they will develop new questions and concerns about your separation.
Be patient with your child and ready to re-explain everything again in a more age-appropriate way. As they become more mature, they will need and deserve different explanations so they can make sense of their situation.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD
Amongst the chaos that is a family separation, there are also lots of good things happening. If your child is struggling to focus on them, it is your job to help them.
Explain that mum and dad won’t argue as much, and even though they live between two homes, both homes will be happier than before. Point out other positives such as living nearer to friends, having a bigger bedroom, or getting two Christmas Days.
MAKE THE MESSAGE CLEAR
Certain things are important to tell our kids with we separate. Things they need to understand from the get-go to ensure they are clear in their minds.
Two of the most critical are:
- That they are loved just as much as ever
- That the separation of their parents is not their fault
Drive these points home by mentioning them whenever you need to until they are fully sunk in.
FIND A DISTRACTION
When your child is going through a low, once you have acknowledged it and chatted about the issue, it can help to find a distraction.
This can be as simple as inviting one of their friends for tea, going to the movies, or reading a good book together.
Distractions can help pull both child and parent out of the doldrums and lift the spirits in the home.
GET PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
You might find that whatever you try, your child is still struggling with your separation. If this is happening and they are not improving or getting worse, seek support.
If they are school-age, the school counsellor could step in as they will have helped many children through parental separation. Or, a good starting point is to book an appointment with your GP. They can refer your child accordingly to get the help they need.
Don’t take any chances with your little one. If you sense something isn’t right and you have exhausted your support toolbox, bring in a professional to help get a smile back on their face.