Feeling a bit lost after your divorce or separation recently? For starters, check what you can do to improve your psychological health. Importantly, where there are children involved in a divorce, it is essential for their sake that parents take care of themselves. Right now, you may be feeling uncertain about what the future holds for you. But things will surely fall into place eventually.
Separation is a confusing and difficult time for all involved parties. Understandably, it is associated with severe stress and anxiety. Adding to this is the challenge of adjusting to a new environment without the presence of your former partner.
Children who witness their parents separating also feel the same stress and anxiety. This is a traumatic experience for them. Generally, the topic of financial child support is given a lot of importance following a divorce or separation. However, with the growing awareness of mental health issues, there is also a need to provide psychological support to children.
The objective of this article is to discuss how parents can provide psychological support to their children when they are going through a divorce or separation. When the children are too young, they might be unable to properly communicate what they are feeling. This is why it is necessary to be sensitive to the needs of the child.
How are you and your child getting by?
Let’s admit it. Separation is tough because you’ve realised that you have grown apart from your former spouse. The last thing you want at this stage is to be caught up in the complicated legal proceedings of the divorce. But unfortunately, because of the various steps involved when finalising a divorce or separation in case of a de facto relationship, both parties remain occupied with these procedures. This is the stage during which it is possible for the children to feel most neglected.
Many parties themselves report a range of negative feelings during and after separation:
- Frustration and anger;
- Powerlessness and desperation;
- Anxiety and depression; and
- Bouts of demotivation and confusion.
These emotions can escalate when not attended to properly and may cause further harm to your well-being, future relationships, and most importantly to your children.
It is vital to consider your child’s mental health as well. It is important to note that the children’s developmental and emotional milestones are attended to, as this will affect their life in the subsequent years. Parents play an important role in the personal development of their child.
Wherever required, it may be prudent to seek psychiatric help from professionals who can guide you to navigate through such an emotionally challenging time of your life.
Importance of being involved in your child’s life
Being there for your child is easier said than done while going through a divorce or separation. While you may feel a strong bond with your child, it is necessary to ask yourself if you:
- Spend quality time with your child?
- Attend important events like birthday parties and awards ceremonies in school?
- Know their friends, and are aware of their social life?
- Assist in their academic progress and financial needs?
- Listen to them, and comprehend their emotional needs and provide advice?
You don’t want your children to become estranged from you because you were not involved in their lives. Especially in the years in which they are growing up, the parents’ behaviour towards their children can greatly influence the impression they have about their parents in the future.
For starters, maybe you can have a talk with your child and sit down to discuss some current issues that he/she wants to address to avoid conflicts within the household.
Dealing with children who feel guilty about the divorce/separation
Many children have a tendency to believe they are responsible for their parents’ divorce or separation. They might blame themselves, and feel guilty for the dissolution of their parents’ relationship.
For them, this is a very unfamiliar situation. It is important for parents to be honest with the children, and communicate openly with them. Children require to be reassured, and reminded that it is not their fault.
Moreover, they also need to be reminded that the parents will always be there for them, and that their parents are reliable. At times like this, children seek stability. It is the duty of the parents to provide them with stability and assurance.
In the heat of a divorce or separation, people may put the needs of the child on the backburner. This is because they are caught up with finalising the divorce, finalising property settlement, formulating custody arrangements and making parenting plans.
However, this time is as stressful for the children as it is for the parties who are getting divorced. Therefore, being sensitive to the needs of the child is especially important during this time. It is necessary for parents to listen to their children and to respect their opinions and wishes. If not dealt with properly, the children may carry the trauma of their parents’ divorce or separation for the rest of their lives.
John Bui is the Principal Solicitor of JB Solicitors – a law firm based in Sydney, Australia. The firm primarily deals with matters related to family law, commercial law, property law and criminal law among others.
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