In my last article I wrote about how your behaviour during a separation period impacts your children.
My suggestions have hopefully made you more mindful about your own behaviour and how you can manage intense emotions and tricky situations without causing your children unnecessary pain. Always remain aware of the fact that you are not the only one who is experiencing feelings of grief and suffering. Their world has also been turned upside down.
By shifting your focus onto your children, and making them your top priority, they too can work through this challenging time while still feeling loved and supported.
Which brings us to the topic of this article – how to actively provide your children with that support and love. First, we must keep in mind that no child is the same. It is completely normal for children to experience a breakup differently, even if their siblings are going through the same situation. So, regardless of how your children express their sadness and grief, simply be present, encouraging and loving.
Here are some suggestions that will help guide you to become a thoughtful and active support-system for you children as they process the breakup:
Help them to grieve – Your children are feeling an intense sense of loss. Remember they have suddenly lost a parental unit as well as a family unit. They have also lost a life they once knew. Be there for them as they grieve. Help them to express their emotions. All of them are ok. Giving them a safe space to grieve helps them adjust to their new circumstances.
Just listen – Encourage your children to talk about their feelings and really LISTEN to them. Take careful note of their moods. If they appear to be acting out or withdrawing, this may be your cue to become their sounding board. Let them speak of their sadness, anger and other unexpected feelings that may crop up. You don’t have to fix it. Just being there is enough. Acknowledge how they feel and let them know that it’s ok to be hurting the way that they do.
Encourage honesty – Children often will hide their true feelings for fear of hurting or disappointing you. Let them know that you are giving them a safe space to say whatever they want and it’s ok. Again, don’t take what they say personally because they may blame you for the divorce and they should be allowed to express their feelings honestly.
Keep the conversation going – As children grow older and become mature, they may end up with a whole set of new questions, feelings, or concerns about the breakup even after the dust has settled and you have moved on. Be consistent and let them know that you will always be loving parents and whilst the family dynamic may have changed you are still a family.
Be positive – Yes, this may be tough to do, especially during the breakup period when your pain is still so intense. Try to focus on the strengths of all family members and encourage your children to do the same. Help them to see the brighter side by focusing on things, like mom and dad living separately means two much happier homes and quality time with each of you.
Be reassuring – Children often think they are to blame for the divorce. Help move them away from the blame game by reassuring them that both you and your ex still love them very much and nothing will get in the way of this. Keep letting them know they aren’t responsible for the breakup. Be open about why mom and dad decided to get a divorce. Don’t be impatient and dismissive when they keep asking you the same questions. It’s their way of working through their grief.
Being an active support-system for your children is often easier said than done. Get the help you need to feel resourced enough, because together you and your children can get through this painful period and rise again stronger.
Would you like more advice about supporting your children during your breakup? Find out all about my RISE AGAIN course here.