Protecting Your Castle: How to Protect Your Family During a Divorce
A dentist and a manicurist decided to get divorced; they fought tooth and nail.
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “that’s the most awful joke you’ve ever heard.” Lucky for you, this isn’t the comedy club. But even terrible jokes like the one above are great for one thing – showing how messy divorce can be.
Going through a divorce can impact your family in so many ways. It affects the couple who have to part ways, the children, and your family and friends.
Did you know that children who go through a divorce between the ages of 7 and 14 are more likely to develop behavioral issues? They are also four times as likely to develop social issues.
You can learn more about the effects of divorce on children here.
Every year the divorce rate across the globe and with it, the lives of families and children get turned upside down. Divorce can be a stressful and sad time for both parents and the children, which begs the question, “how do you protect them from the effects of the divorce?” But before that, let’s look at some ways divorce affects the home.
Effects of Divorce on the Home
How does divorce affect the family? How parents react will differ from how kids react. Here’s how divorce affects the different parties in the home.
- It causes a lot of stress in the home as the women often feel humiliated about the ordeal. They typically turn to alcohol to cope and are more likely to seek therapy than fathers.
- Divorce causes fathers to feel more anxious and depressed. They are more likely to turn to abusive substances as their coping mechanism. Some even feel less accepting of their children.
- Divorce affects children in different ways, depending on their age. It can lead to anxiety, eating problems, mood and behavioral changes, and cause some to develop abandonment issues.
How to Protect Your Children During a Divorce
Let’s face it; divorces are hard. They are a stressful and emotional experience for everyone involved, especially for children. Many kids feel angry, shocked or uncertain about what’s going on and how it’ll affect them. Some even blame themselves for the problems at home.
The trauma of divorce often carries into adulthood as well. Adult children of divorce are more susceptible to alcohol and drug use. They also tend to have commitment issues and a distrust of the legal system. They blame the courts for tearing their family apart.
So, how do you protect your child during this difficult time? Let’s find out.
- Be honest about the divorce.
Most parents freeze up when they have to tell their kids about their divorce. But your kids deserve the truth, and they need to hear it from you. If you’re feeling anxious about the conversation, you can write down what you want to say and practice it.
Children will follow their parents’ lead, so if you come off anxious and fidgety, that’s the energy they’ll associate with the divorce. But if you’re calm, that’s the energy they’ll take in.
You should also let them know that you love them. Letting your kids know you love them is crucial because kids tend to interpret divorces as “mummy and daddy no longer love each other which means they don’t love me too.” Give them lots of reassurance and love and let them know they are not to blame for what is happening.
- Teach them how to grieve the divorce.
Divorce can feel like an intense loss, and one way to protect your child from the effects of divorce is to let them grieve this loss. Show them how to express their emotions and cope with the new circumstance.
It’s easy to forget that your children need to learn how to grieve properly, and so do you. You can use this opportunity to explain that you feel sad about it, but let them know that it had to happen (of course, the amount of information you share will depend on their age).
Encourage your kids to express their emotions and pay attention to what they say as well as their body language. They could be frustrated over events that you didn’t even think of.
- Help them find words for their feelings.
It’s common for children to struggle with expressing their emotions. Assist them by being more observant about their moods and encouraging open communication.
- Let them be honest
Your child may not share their true feelings about the situation to spare your feelings. Reassure them that whatever they say is fine. You may find that they blame you for the divorce, and yes, that may hurt you.
But now that you know, you can both talk about it. The alternative would be to bottle it up and allow that resentment to grow.
- Make talking about the divorce an ongoing process.
As time goes, and your kids grow older, they may have new concerns, questions, or feelings about what happened. Be ready to go over the same ground again and again.
- Acknowledge their feeling
You won’t be able to fix their problem or change their mood from sad to happy overnight; you’re not Santa Claus. But what’s important is getting them to acknowledge their feeling instead of burying them or dismissing them.
- Offer some stability.
You can help your kid adjust to the changes coming by providing as much structure and stability that you can. This doesn’t mean creating a rigid schedule and enforcing strict rules, or trying to make sure your routine still matches with your partner (or former partner). But they’ll need to have the same routine in each household.
Kids feel more secure when they know what to expect. For example, if dinner is by seven at mom’s house followed by homework and a bath, the same needs to happen whenever they are at dad’s house.
- Keep arguments away from children.
The most important part of protecting your children from divorce is to keep them out of it as much as you possibly can. Sadly, this isn’t as easy to accomplish as it sounds. As much as we want to protect our children, we’re humans first, and as humans, we like to show and share our pain.
There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that arguing in front of children can be damaging to them, especially if the fights are nasty and the parents don’t make up – a hallmark of most fights during a divorce.
If you argue in front of your kids, you need to repair the damage as soon as possible. Explain the reason for the argument, and reassure them that you still love them. Also, you may want to have future conversations with your ex elsewhere.
How to Protect Yourself During a Divorce
As a parent, you’ll also need to protect yourself during a divorce, or you may just find yourself spiraling out of control. Breakups trigger all sorts of painful emotions.
You’re also going to be grieving the loss of your relationship and the end of an era. But you can’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the emotions you’re feeling. You need to know how to protect yourself, so you can do the same for your children.
Here are some ways to protect yourself during a divorce
- Eat healthier and exercise more.
Did you know that exercise is a great way to relieve stress? And like it or not, you’re going to be feeling a lot of that during this divorce period. Eating healthier will also make you feel better, both inside and out.
- Hang out with your friends more often.
Hollywood’s idea of how to get through a breakup is to stop seeing your friends, possibly stop showering, and just get a big bucket of ice cream and cry in front of your TV. Crying may help release some of the stress and frustration you’re going through (and it’s okay to cry if you need to), but ignoring your friends won’t. Your friends will ask about the divorce, and you prefer not to talk about it, but it’s important to have people that support you. Plus, they’re your friends; they’ll understand if you tell them you’re not ready to talk about it.
- Pick up journaling
You’re going to experience a jumbled mess of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that you’d think you were going through puberty again. These emotions and thoughts will need an outlet, or they’ll explode out of you one day. One thing that works is to keep a journal. Write down every feeling and thought you have. You’ll find that expressing those emotions on paper will make you feel better and make it easier to face the day.
- Learn how to co-parent
If there’s one thing that you’ll need to work on, it’s co-parenting. Unfortunately, getting a divorce doesn’t mean you’ll never have to see your ex again. You still have kids together, and you’ll need to learn how to be a good co-parent.You can learn tips on how to co-parent here.
By now, you’ve learned a few tricks that should help you protect your family during a divorce. But, here are a few things to note; kids will respond to divorce differently. If you have more than one child, you may notice that one adjusted easily while the other still faces some difficulty.
Give them time and continue reassuring and showing them you love them. If your child still feels overwhelmed, then you may want to seek out professional help. It’ll take time for your kids to work through their issues concerning your divorce and separation, but improvements will happen.
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