4.13 - Strategies to Help Children Cope
Now that we have seen how the separation experience affects the children, it is time to examine strategies to help children cope.
We have been talking about the separation experience for children and how important it is for you as a parent to understand their experience. Now we are going discuss what children need to hear from you when your relationship ends.
Children are very aware of what is going on. Children learn by their parents’ example. When you can make positive changes, the children will benefit as well.
Children need to hear the following over and over again during the separation process:
- You did not cause the separation/divorce.
- We are not going to ask you to take sides.
- You will continue to be loved, taken care of and provided for.
- When we married/began living together, we loved each other and believed things would work out.
- The divorce/separation was not an easy decision. After a lot of effort, we decided we could no longer live together.
- While our feelings for each together have changed, the special relationship between a parent and child goes on forever.
- We won’t be living together anymore.
- You will still see me – just not as often.
- You may wish we’d get back together again, but that is not going to happen.
- We are both sorry for the hurt this decision is causing you.
- We will never stop loving you. Never!
Be sure you keep telling your children these things.
On the other hand children don’t need to hear you venting your emotions. Here are some examples of things you should not say:
- You should not say that the separation is the other parent’s fault.
- Don’t give children the message that one parent is the “good guy” and one the “bad guy”, even if you feel that way.
- You should not describe the details of what went wrong.
- Children don’t need information about affairs, money problems, or personality problems. Children are burdened by it.
Don’t express negative, critical statements about the other parent – saying negative things about the other person puts children in emotional conflict and makes them feel bad about themselves.