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Hilal Her

Parenting Through Divorce

December 2023

Parenting during a divorce can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally difficult task. Adults are generally able to understand and cope with loss through reasoning and processing, but children and adolescents may find it difficult to comprehend and deal with on their own. Divorce is a life-altering event not only for the partners but also the children involved. Having your parents living together one day and separately the next raises a lot of whys, what ifs, and hows in young minds. Maintaining a delicate balance between emotions, communication, and resilience is necessary while parenting through and after divorce. To help parents navigate through this difficult trip and maintain the stability and wellbeing of their children, we will look at several tactics and advice in this article.

Take Care of Yourself 
Divorce can be traumatizing and life-changing for all the parties involved. Children are dependent on parents for their sense of safety, security, and grounding. Most divorcing couples’ primary focus is and should be the children’s wellbeing. However, you need to remember during these testing times that you need to take care of yourself before taking care of your children. It is okay and essential for parents to lean on friends and close family to get through this time. Try to find some time and support for yourself to get through this to be available for your children. Write, paint, talk, take some solo walks, and get professional help if needed. 
When to Share the News
Often, divorce does not happen instantly. Days, months, and years of conflict and unrest may lead to the final divorce deed. For most couples, there are periods of separation and getting back together. Children must know about their parents’ divorce when the decision is finalized but well before the significant life changes that will come after the divorce, such as, separate homes, changing schools, a parent remarrying. The selection of the time to share this information is of prime value. Tell the children when they are well-rested, well-fed, and calm. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can talk without interruptions. Choose a time when everyone is calm and not rushed. Avoid telling them first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night.
Explain the Reasons
It is a tough question that most divorcing parents are asking themselves, what to tell the childern. You need to share age-appropriate information with the children. Ask yourself, “Is my child old enough to understand what the word divorce means?” Think about the language and specific words to explain that you are getting a divorce and the reasons behind it. There are instances where it may not be necessary to mention the word ‘divorce’. Simply stating that the parents will not be living together due to the end of their marriage can suffice. It is important to be mindful and refrain from blaming, labelling, or speaking negatively about other parents. Be honest with them, but keep in mind that they don’t necessarily need to be informed about every single detail. Children may also ask questions that require answers without going into excessive detail. Sometimes, parents, in their anger and frustration during a divorce, may inadvertently share personal information about their former partner with their children. This can potentially have a negative impact on the child’s mental wellbeing. Please remember that the person you are speaking to is a child and not someone you should confide in.
Share the Upcoming Life Changes
You should share the life changes that a child is expected to experience after your divorce. Mention the specifics, for example, separate living arrangement, staying with both or one parent going forward, etc. Also, let them know what is not going to change: you two being their parents and loving them separately but not any less. It is of utmost importance that you keep asking the children how they feel about the situation and validate their feelings to help them through this tumultuous time. Do not try to pacify or make their feelings small by saying things like, “It is no big deal.”
Present a United Front
Whenever possible, both parents should be present for this conversation. It sends a message of unity and reassures the child that both parents are involved and supportive. Showing some emotion such as sadness or crying is okay. It will also help make space for children to express their emotions and vulnerability. 
Use Age-Appropriate Language
Tailor your language according to your child’s age and developmental level. Avoid using complex or adult language that may confuse or overwhelm them. Keep the explanation simple and straightforward, focusing on the most essential information.
Emphasize That it is Not Their Fault
Children when lied to or not told about the reasons for divorce, may internalize blame and experience guilt. Reassure your child that the decision to divorce is between the parents and is not their fault. Children often internalize blame for the separation, so it is crucial to address any feelings of guilt.
Help Your Children Deal with Their Feelings 
Your children can be ‘stuffers’ or ‘exploders’. They may keep it all inside or put it out very clearly. In both cases, they need your support and attention. Children can experience strong, big emotions including sadness, anger, confusion, or even relief during this time, however, with limited resources they might not know how to channel them. Offer support and understanding as they process the information. Let them know it is okay for them to feel it all and make it a point to ask them how they are feeling, listen actively without interrupting, and validate their emotions. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts and if they share strong words such as hate, do not trivialize it and mention that you are sorry that they have to go through it. Children are keen observers and are likely to ask direct questions. Be prepared for such questions and answer them honestly within age-appropriate limits. 
You can give mediums such as play, drawing, writing, painting, and going outdoors to help express their emotions in healthy ways. 
Honesty Without Blame
Children deserve to know age-appropriate information about their parents split, but avoid blaming the other parent or getting into too much detail. Focus on broader reasons such as, “mother and father have their differences,” or, “the fighting or unrest at home is not good for anyone,” rather than assigning blame. Emphasize that, despite the changes, both parents still love the child unconditionally. Reinforce your commitment to supporting and caring for them.
Provide Reassurance about the Future
Give reassurance to children on how the parents will keep playing their role despite living in separate homes. Inform the children of the probable visitation schedule. Do not provide false hopes that may lead them to think that you may not get a divorce; this would confuse the already muddled mind. 
Keep Checking In with Them
Check in with your child regularly after the initial conversation. Encourage ongoing communication and let them know they can ask questions or share their feelings anytime. Remember, discussing divorce is a process, not a one-time event. Be patient and understanding, and seek professional help if needed. Supporting your child through open communication and reassurance can help them navigate the challenges of divorce more effectively.
Children thrive on consistency and routine. Try to keep both houses’ schedules and routines as similar as possible. This covers food plans, bedtime customs, and other daily activities. By fostering a feeling of stability and normalcy, consistency helps to lessen the possible detrimental effects of the divorce on their wellbeing.
To sum it all up, you are the parents of children who will continue to lean on you for love, support, and belonging. With the right resources, you can do an outstanding job of keeping your personal differences aside and be the parent you aspire to be. With the appropriate attitude and approach, individuals have the capacity to effectively manage personal differences and fulfil their aspirations of becoming exemplary parents. HH

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