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Helping kids cope with divorce or separation

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

There is no bigger change in kids’ lives than separation or divorce. Children in particular can have trouble adjusting to post-split realities. The rituals and traditions that were formed when the whole family was together are no more and your child may experience guilt over spending time with one parent and not the other.

Below are some ways to help your kids cope with the post-divorce new normal.

Establish new traditions

Believe it or not, children love routines and family traditions. The familiarity of routines help them understand the world and prevent any anxiety they may experience from not knowing what might happen next. Since the traditions you established as married parents are no more, create new routines and traditions that your children can embrace instead.

Get the kids to help around the house with more than chores and cleaning. A small gift like a children’s tool kit can get them to ‘help’ with household maintenance and odd jobs. If they’re contributing more around the house, they have a better sense of belonging, especially since the old home is missing a parent, and the new home is still a strange place.

Coming up with new family traditions is also a fun way to help them enjoy their new lives between two houses. Perhaps they could help you decorate your home for Halloween, or they could pick out new baubles for the Christmas tree. Maybe every Saturday is homemade pizza night or Sundays are the day that you do a certain activity together. Establishing new traditions is a great way to build excitement and happiness in children, and you can still also honour the traditions that existed before your split, ensuring a balance between their old life and new.

Communicate openly and honestly

Throughout the separation/ divorce process, it’s imperative to keep lines of communication open with your kids. Talking regularly with your children will help prevent feelings of abandonment or guilt. If your child seems like they are feeling bad about leaving you on a day you normally spend together, assure them that you will be fine, and that you will take care of yourself. Don’t make it seem like you are going to be happy without them. Rather, ease their mind by letting them know you are taking the time to rest and recuperate so you’ll have the energy to have a great time once you reunite.

Create an atmosphere of fun

When you spend time with your children, make the atmosphere fun and enjoyable to try and get all of your minds off of the changes you are experiencing. There are plenty of opportunities to have a family-friendly good time:

– Have a movie night at home with duvets, pillows, popcorn and pyjamas

– Take up a new regular activity- a sport, weekly swimming, building dens in the woods or rock-pooling

– Let them help choose items for their room at your house such as bedding, pictures for the walls and decorations

– Organise trips out to museums and theme parks or the beach

– Create a mini planting area for sunflowers and fruit and vegetables in your garden and help them plant some seeds

– Have barbecues and family gatherings

Seek comfort in furry friends

If your family has a beloved dog or cat, your children can find great comfort in bringing them along when travelling between houses. Pets are proven to reduce stress and provide a constant in a world full of change. The unconditional love the pet provides will also comfort them. If your schedule seems like it will be too hectic to care for a dog, enlist the help of a professional dog walker or pet sitter to help you juggle responsibilities and the challenges of being a newly single parent. Cats are a less high-maintenance option that also provide furry cuddles and love. If they don’t already have a pet, a new kitten, fish or bunny could help your child feel more excited about the changes they are experiencing.

You can find more tips on helping your child cope with separation or divorce here.

If you want to talk to others who are going through divorce or separation, you can join our friendly forum.

This post was written by Carrie Spencer of Spencer’s Adventures. You can read her family blog here.

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