At some point in our life we will all experience loss. Loss comes in different forms. Once such form that impacts life significantly is divorce:
Before, during and after divorce it is important for the adults involved to consider the following:
1. Strive to react with civility towards all involved. Emotions during a divorce are going to be heightened - take a breath before acting - strive to limit reacting.
2. Whether or not your children express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they will want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change. Make sure not to take your children hostage in the divorce - don’t make them choose between parents, they love you both.
• Be prepared to answer these and other questions:
-Who will I live with?
-Where will I go to school?
-Will I move?
-Where will each parent live?
-Where will we spend holidays?
-Will I still get to see my friends?
-Can I still go to camp this summer?
-Can I still do my favorite activities?
Here are some ways to help family cope with the upset of a divorce:
• Encourage honesty. Children need to know that their feelings are important to their parents and that they will be taken seriously.
• Help them put their feelings into words. A child’s behavior can often clue you in to their feelings of sadness or anger.
• Legitimize their feelings. Saying "I know you feel sad now" or "I know it feels lonely without dad/mom here" lets them know that their feelings are valid.
• Offer support. Ask, "What do you think will help you feel better?" They might not be able to name something, but you can suggest a few ideas.
• Keep the details in check. Take care to ensure privacy when discussing the details of the divorce with friends, family, or your lawyer. Try to keep your interactions with your ex as civil as possible, especially when you're interacting in front of the family.
• Take the high road. Do not resort to blaming or name-calling within earshot of your kids, no matter what the circumstances of the separation. This is especially important in an "at fault" divorce where there have been especially hurtful events, like infidelity. Take care to keep letters, e-mails, and text messages in a secure location as children will be naturally curious if there is a high-conflict situation going on at home.
• Get help. This is not the time to go it alone. Find a support group, talk to others who have gone through this, use online resources, or ask your doctor or religious leaders to refer you to other resources. Getting help yourself sets a good example for your family on how to make a healthy adjustment to this major change. Help from a counselor, therapist, or friend will also maintain healthy boundaries with your kids. It's very important not to lean on your kids for support. Older children and those who are eager to please may try to make you feel better by offering a shoulder to cry on. No matter how tempting that is, it's best not to let them be the provider of your emotional support. Let your children know how touched you are by their caring nature and kindness, but do your venting to a friend or therapist.