It is natural and expected that you will have strong feelings when going through a separation or divorce.  When kids are involved, separation can be very stressful while working out care and financial arrangements while also managing the strong emotions.  Stress and strong emotions are a normal reaction, it makes sense that it will take some time to process the changes and also your own emotions.  When under stress parenting can seem to be that much harder, for this reason having support from family or close friends is important.  At other times extra support from a professional can be beneficial. During this time, it can be helpful to give yourself self care time, it is important to acknowledge that this is a process. Self care time can be as simple as having a hot bubble bath with oils, a walk, giving yourself time to read your favourite book etc.

I often talk to parents about the importance of coping with their own feelings and not involving the children in adult matters. This means refraining from talking negatively about your child's father or mother, this only makes the process difficult for your child and can make your child feel guilty. This can be very difficult at times and this is where having a professional to help guide you can be helpful.

Helping Your Child Cope with the change

Change can be difficult for everyone. Your children will need to feel a sense of safety and security during this change.  It is important that children have a sense of stability during this time, this may mean creating some schedules or structure at home.   It is important that your children's emotions also be validated - this is tough for them too.   Explain to your children the arrangements, this means, who will they be living with, how they will get to school, what days they are with Mum and Dad.  

Let them know that although Mum and Dad are no longer living together a lot of things will still be the same, such as going to the same school, doing the same after school activities.  Having a sense of predictability is important to help reduce anxiety and or stress that your child/ren may be experiencing.  Trying to maintain structure and your child's routine as much as possible.  

Transition times (i.e., contact visits - mum's house, dad's house) can be a source of stress for everyone involved.  This is natural part of the process and it will take some time for your child to get use to changes.  Be mindful that these times can be more stressful.   Giving extra time and reassurance during this time can be helpful, having transition activities such as special meal etc or quality time in an activitiy (e.g., lego time, colouring in time) etc may also help.

Praise and attend to desirable behaviour. At times behaviour difficulties can emerge during times of high stress, this can be a natural response to change for children. For this reasons, having clear expectations and structure can be helpful. Remember to praise and give attention to your child when they are showing pleasant or desirable behaviour. This includes increasing pleasant actvities, for example a picnic in the park, a visit to the park, beach, increasing pleasant activities can help with not only your mood but also improve your child's mood as well. 

More information coming soon.

Dr. Jenni Silva
Clinical Psychologist

Book recommendations:
When Dinosaurs Divorce