By April Thompson, LMFT
Imagine you’ve just made a string of three paper dolls and when you pull from both ends to see if it stays together. It indeed rips apart. But where does it rip, right down the middle, where the middle person is connected to either person on the ends?
Now imagine this is your child, and either person on the end is yourself and your ex-partner. This is obviously not what you want for your child, to rip them down the middle because you and your ex are pulling them both ways. Unfortunately, parents often focus on themselves and their own grief and anger, forgetting about their child’s emotional state and needs.
Families seeking divorce often seek counsel on how to best help their child(ren) deal with the adjustments such as legal counsel and mediation. The effects of divorce and separation are different for every child, even siblings can react differently. Some of the results have to do with your child’s age, emotional development, temperament, affect regulation ability, sibling position, social involvement, social support systems in place, and relative involvement. Considering these factors can help you gain insight as to how to help your child through the process of adjusting.
If you find that your child is struggling emotionally, which could look like so many different things (acting out more, aggression, withdrawing, isolating, excessive crying, grades dropping, etc) then it is important to get them into some counseling where they can have a safe place to process their thoughts and feelings and learn some coping strategies. Children as young as 2 and 3 can benefit as well if you can find a play therapist that works with toddlers. There are books you can buy for your own sake and research and a few children’s books as well to read with your child and help them talk about it with you.
Take the time to get research the best ways to help your child(ren) adjust to the separation or divorce. It will make a life-long difference.
April Thompson is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and founder of Spero Family Services located in Irvine, CA. She specializes with Children (2-18), Play Therapy, Adolescents, Families, and Parent Education. April hosts monthly workshops on how divorce affects children and a support group for teen girls of divorce. Visit April at www.SperoFamilyServices.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.