Divorce is not simply a rollercoaster ride for the parents involved, but is also a traumatic time for their children both parents, whatever their own difficulties with one another, must focus very carefully on the needs of their children.
But just what are these needs?
The need for acceptance
Divorce sees the breakup of the family unit and while this in itself can be very difficult for the children, is often also accompanied by a feeling on the part of the children that they have actually caused the breakup.
It is extremely important therefore to assure the children that this is not their fault. It is also critical to assure them that they still form a vital and central role in the lives of both parents and that, whatever the final outcome of any divorce, their welfare is very much at the top of the priority list.
The need for safety
Divorce and the breakup of the family can also bring with it a feeling of a loss of both safety and security for the children.
To counteract this it is important to try to keep life as normal as possible by maintaining the childrens’ routine.
The need for structure
The breakup of the family structure and the departure of one of the parents from the childrens’ day-to-day life will often result in the children probing the new structure and, in particular, testing its new boundaries.
As well as maintaining a routine for the children therefore, it is also important to both reward good behavior and to punish bad behavior appropriately. Parents often feel that they should ‘cut the children some slack’ because of the unusual situation in which the children find themselves. However, children need a structure to their lives and, wherever it is possible, to see that most things have not changed at all.
The need for strong parents
Divorce can put your emotions into a spin and it can be difficult to cope with the trials of daily life. Your children however will look to you to providing stability and strength, especially at times of crisis, and it is important that this is just how you appear to them.
Children will naturally worry about you so, whatever your own feelings, try to keep these away from them and furnish them with an environment in which they can relax.
The need to be kids
All too often divorced parents turn to their children in the absence of a former spouse and it is easy to draw your children into dealing with problems which are essentially adult issues.
You children will grow up all too quickly and be faced with their own problems of adulthood before you know it. For now, however, they need to be allowed to be kids, so deal with your problems yourself and limit the amount of information your children have about what’s going on between yourself and your former spouse.