Divorce and your kids - what can you do to make it easier?
Averagely in Singapore, around 23,000 people get married each year. From that 23,000 around 7,000 end up getting divorced. That's over 1 out of every 4 marriages ending in divorce. Here's what you can do to help your child transition if you have decided to get a divorce.
Divorce and Kids: What parents should know
While it's definitely sad when a marriage falls apart, but the pressing question is, what happens to the kids? Having a divorce and kids can have many emotional consequences. In her book entitled, ‘It Takes a Village’ Hillary Clinton wrote, “children without fathers, or whose parents float in and out of their lives after divorce, are the most precarious little boats in the most turbulent seas."
There cannot be more truth in these words. Divorce and kids is a link that nobody wants to make yet many do, with the number of people with kids getting divorced, rising constantly.
Divorce affects children differently, depending on their age, quirks and stages in life. Your child might feel stressed and confused by all the changes occurring in her world. She might be extremely needy and clingy, a whiner or even exceptionally tearful. Whatever your child's symptom is, it's imperative to be there for them and help them cope.
Here are some ways that you can help your child through a divorce.
1. Talk it out with your kid
Even though your child may not show any outward emotions about the divorce, chances are she's hurt and needs you now more than ever before. Try to be a listening ear to her, and encourage her to communicate her feelings.
If she doesn't want to talk, you can get her to paint or draw what she's feeling. Talking things out will definitely give your child a better picture of what is happening rather than hiding the issue from her or avoiding this topic at home. This way your child expresses any need and avoids bottling up her emotions.
2. Spend time with your kid
Use whatever available time to play, cuddle or just read to your child. It won't harm your young child to let her sleep with you during this stage.
The gain in her security is worth the elbow jabs. It is a good idea to plan out the weekends with your child whether it involves taking them for classes or even shopping! Also try and make it for all their school events like concerts and other performances because these are the small ways to express your love for them.
3. Establish a strong support network
It is important that your child has a strong network around her. Enlist the help of friends, grandparents and teachers. It's also important to have good same-gendered role models for your child.
This is an important step after the divorce due to your child's emotional status. It is possible that she refuses to talk to you because she may be blaming you for the loss of the other parent. So it is necessary that she has an appropriate channel for her thoughts and emotions.
4. Consistency is key
Establish a consistent routine and maintain the same standards of discipline that were in place before the divorce. Do not just 'spoil' her by trying to compensate the emotional breakdown, instead, try to follow the same methods as you did before the divorce. This will also show your child how strong you are and teach her to be just like you.
Also, follow a parent-child time and use this opportunity to find out about their lives, what happens at school, who their friends are and so on. Similarly you can tell them how your day/week was and how you just want to get back home and spend time with them, this will make them feel very special. Having a divorce and kids doesn't mean that there should be a rift between you and your child. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to repair the holes and bond closer.
5. Reassure her
One of the saddest things about divorce is that kids realise that it's possible to stop loving someone. Naturally, even your child fears that you may stop loving her too! Therefore, it's vital that you assure her that you love her and that she will always be taken care of and shouldn't have to worry about anything.
It's also important to reaffirm that the other parent loves her too and always will. Try and explain to the child that your spouse has only left because you both don't get along and not because he/she doesn't love the child.
Explaining and clearing out the child's doubts will make her feel loved and form them into a strong individual.
6. Set up play dates with other kids from single parent families
Your child might feel that she is the only one who has divorced parents. Help her feel less ostracized by introducing her to other kids who are also from single parent families.
Sesame street video on Divorce
Divorce and kids don't go hand in hand - there will be hurdles. This video might help your child in coping better.