A little hand hoding for your child to cope up with your divorce.
"Divorce"- if we look at the etymology, it is derived from the Latin word "divortium" meaning 'separation' or 'dissolution of marriage'. We have seen an increase in the cases of divorce across the globe. In our traditional Indian society, it is still a social stigma. With the growing numbers of divorces owing to the changing socio-economic scenario, the societal mindset is also under the transition phase.
It is dissipation of a relationship. The relationship might have been a loving and nourishing one so far till it could not stand the jolt of circumstantial changes. Or it could have been a bumpy relationship taking a toll on life each day and called for dissolution. In both cases, it is an emotional turmoil to go through.
If the divorce involves only two adults who lived their life under one roof as couples, it is a bit easier. Adults can withstand the trauma and express it better. But if there is a child or children involved, it adds to the extra bumps on the already rough path.
The child/children could have been a result off the love and intimacy or could have been an accident of marriage. In any case, sensible parents bear the responsibility of protecting their children and helping them sail through this tough wave holding their hand.
I work as an educator and counselor. In last few years, I have come across children who were traumatized as the parents undergo the process of separation. Children of all ages suffer. The older ones make sense of the situation and can express themselves. The younger ones are clueless. We see the stress manifesting in behavioral and emotional challenges.
Here are the few tips that I give to parents:
1. Do your groundwork and homework:
This is the first step and needs your precised planning -- What will you two do after getting separated?? Getting remarried???Are you moving to a different city or staying in the same place?? What are you future plans for your children--their custody, education etc...??
While taking a decision about the future of your offspring, consider a few suggestions that I proffer......
- Avoid decisions in haste and impulse.
- Look for long term practicality.... your child's custody, education and financial security.
- When taking a decision, let your child be your priority and let your adult ego take a back seat.
- Certain melodramas in and out of court are bound to happen. Try to be sensible and keep it to minimal. If possible keep your children out of it.
2. Tell them and tell them together:
Once you have decided and come to the mature decision to separate, tell your children. And tell them together as parents. Do not delay the talk if it is only your own discomfort. Overcome your inhibition and initiate the talk. It is wise to have a mental draft of your talk for it's better impact and efficiency.Your children trust you the most and hold you with highest regard. Do not let the children get the news from others or guess it from the whispered conversations and the hostile happenings around. This will leave them confused, betrayed and heartbroken adding more to their misery. Do the talking together as parents and show respect to each other's view in front of the children. Though you are getting separated as couple, you are still a team as parents.
3. Gentle tone, truthfulness and age appropriate talk:
Have age appropriate talk with a gentle tone. Say it as a matter of fact. Blurt outburst or somber start might send an unnecessary alarm. Be truthful and do not underestimate the inbuilt lie detector that every child has. Do not lie -"It's okay and things will be fine". Rather you can say the truth -"We are all going through tough time. Even when we do not stay together as family, Mama and Papa love you and will always be with you. We have to work together as a team during this crisis." The concern of children might vary depending on age. While teenage might have the concern of self-image among peers a preschooler might worry who is going to stay and take care of him/her. Stick to the age related concern and address them in a gentle way. Be precise, do not over preach or flood them with unnecessary things that they do not need to know. Make things simpler and do not complicate the tender mind. And please avoid passing the buck game in front of them or the blame game melodramas. Do not demean your spouse in front of his/her child.
4. Outlet for emotions: Do not block it
It is always healthier to response in natural way and let the emotions pour out. Only avoid the high voltage melodrama which might crush the child's ego and self esteem. Also do not let the cheerleader in you surface up. Avoid cheering -"Strong boys/girls do not cry", "That was least accepted from a sensible guy like you" etc.. Give them a shoulder to cry and you also cry with them if you feel like. Let them have a feel that you are honest about your emotions and you also seek love and support from them. Physical expressions like hugs and kisses ease things out and let the bolted emotions pour. Acknowledge the emotion and do not tag it as "good" or "bad"
5. Warning signs and professional help:
Kids are honest about their emotions. Most of them with emotional support from kins overcome the situation with initial hurdles and move ahead in life. But be cautious of the warning signs-- disturbed eating and sleep pattern, unusual bed wetting, too much of aggression or withdrawal etc.. Do not overlook these warning signs. They might indicate towards much deeper hurt or turmoil. Do not hesitate to seek professional help from therapists and counselors.
6. Seek support for yourself and for your kids:
Family, friends, teachers and counselors can be helpful. You can also look for online help from groups of parents and kids going through same. Sharing lifts off some of your burden from your shoulder. Please take your child's permission before you share the news with his/her friends and school. Make them comfortable before you share the news. Your child might not be comfortable to share some of their concerns with you, especially the teenagers. In such situation, a pinch hitter from family ( a loving authority to child like grandparents) or a professional therapist can be used for help. You can ask your child to talk to this person when he/she is in doubt and needs somebody to listen.
7. Keep communication channel and parenting channels open:
Do not seize the regular communication. Squeeze out time from your busy situation and visits to family court to spend with your children. Keep things normal as far as possible. Enjoy your kids and have the common parental fun....few pleasures of parenting stay untouched by the stress of divorce.
"Happy children come out of happy marriages"- Do not let the guilt overpower you.
Happy children come out of happy parents even if the marriage fails.
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