Divorce Coping Skills for Children
The holidays are over and often at this time relationships are reevaluated. The relationship is looked at it a different perspective. Children often are impacted by major decisions. Children will need to gain coping skills if a divorce is to occur. Children need to have their feelings normalized, expressed, have creative outlets for emotions, have support and monitored closely.
When a divorce occurs, children have many different emotions. Children often internalize their emotions and blame themselves for their parent’s relationship ending in divorce. The process of divorce is difficult on children because usually a parent's feeling of shame is projected onto children. This can be done when a parent labels a child (name calling), blames them for the failure in their life (substance abuse, job, relationship), medical and mental health concerns. It is important to have a child talk about those feelings and express to the child that it is normal to feel that way.
Children need to have their emotions expressed during a divorce. The need for children to express themselves is important as they can develop "frozen feelings". Frozen feelings occur in when a child feels hopeless and helpless. This is often seen in abuse. Children will begin to "unfreeze" their feelings if a primary care giver expresses empathy towards a child. A primary giver needs to validate feelings, not try to correct them, and use validation. Children need a least 30 minutes to communicate how they feel with a trusted adult every day and a primary care giver should plan this time every day. There is no single more important question t to ask than, "How was your day?"
Children need to have creative outlets for expression. There are times when a child does not know how to express how they feel. The often are quite confused and lack the emotional vocabulary to express themselves. Children might be locked into “left brain thinking." Left brain thinking is very concrete, rational, and is always analyzing. The coping skill for a child to develop is more "right brain thinking." The right side of the brain is linked to creativity, subjectivity, and looks at the bigger picture. A child could draw, write, use clay, and imagination in a number of ways of that are creative to express themselves.
Children need support during a divorce and need to be closely monitored. Children greatly benefit from counseling or divorce groups. This takes away feelings of being alone and removes shame. Children need adults in their lives that they can trust, will not abandon them, and will promote growth. A primary care giver would benefit from having someone who can help monitor children and enhance coping skills.
Divorce is a difficult time for children. Children are learning to express emotions and quite often have difficulties learning to trust again. The transition period for the family is a difficult one but when a child is able to express them-self, validated for what they feel, have creative outlets, and support the task can be accomplished.