Divorce is a traumatic experience for the whole family, especially for young children who are not quite able to understand the ins and outs of divorce. If you are going through a divorce, it is vitally important to talk to the kids and give them the ongoing assurance that both mom and dad love them, no matter what.
How divorce affects kids
- Kids tend to blame themselves for the split up or they may even believe that it is because of something they have done or said, that has lead to the divorce of their parents.
- Children may often harbour ill feelings towards the -wronged’ parent, or the parent who has initiated the divorce.
- A lot of kids are very concerned about their own personal security and wellbeing. Kids tend to feel concern about where they will live, who they will live with and they are afraid that they may never see their mom or dad again.
Divorcing parents must try to ease the hurt and trauma and find the time to spend real, quality time with the kids.
The Dos and Don’ts of Divorce
- Parents should never run down one parent to the other. The battle is between you and your spouse and kids do not need to hear -how terrible their father is’ or -what their mother has done’. Parents should never use their kids as pawns and try to score points with kids, the fact remains, the divorce is between you and your estranged partner, and not with the kids.
- Give children the chance to express themselves, take the time to listen to their fears, the feelings and the insecurities.
- Do not lie to a child – give them a true account of the facts, without name calling or bad-mouthing the other partner. Kids deserve the truth and rather than giving them a sugar coated account of what may happen after the divorce, children should be told what they should expect after the divorce.
- Do not tell the kids about the divorce, until the decision has made firmly made and agreed upon by both parties. If parents continually threaten divorce, kids will constantly have a feeling of insecurity.
- Don’t use kids as messengers or go-betweens. If there are issues which need to be discussed with your ex- or soon to be ex-spouse, contact them directly.
- Do not try to buy the children’s affection or love by spoiling them with expensive gifts and toys. Spending quality time with kids, listening to their feelings will be a lot more beneficial than the latest cell phone or Playstation game.
- Counselling sessions may be beneficial to families who find it difficult to talk and the session will become a platform for all parties to air the concerns and voice their fears.
- Parents need to take time out to deal with their own issues and it may be useful to call on friends or family to spend a few hours with the kids, while parents spend time alone, dealing with the many issues they are facing.
- No matter how draining the divorce may be, both parents need to fulfil their commitments and obligations to their minor children.
The bottom line is that no matter how amicable the divorce is, the dynamics of the family will be changed forever. Even though parents are bombarded with so many mixed emotions and feelings which range from confusion to anger to and fear, they need to work together to make the divorce less traumatic for the children. If children are given the constant reassurance by both parents that they will always be loved and always be cared for, and if they are given the truths about the changes that will occur during and after the divorce, the divorce may be a lot less painful.
Divorce is a harsh reality and when children are involved, the reality is harder to bear. Once the divorce is final, parents must continue to meet their obligations to their children and always ensure that they are given the best care, are given love and support. Divorce does not signify an end of maternal or paternal responsibilities and no matter the reason for the divorce, parents are obliged to face the realities and ensure that their children are cared for on all levels, be it by way of financial support, regular visits and being a part of the child’s life. In most cases, custody of the minor children is awarded to the mother and the children are able to visit their father on weekends or over holidays. If the parents remarry or begin a new relationship after the divorce, again children must continue to receive the love and support of both parents.
The FAMSA website, www.famsa.org.za/about.asp will provide help and support to families facing a divorce or dealing with the long term effects of divorce, or families who are going through other painful experiences. FAMSA is also committed to helping South African families build strong and solid foundations, which allow families to grow and prosper.
– Kathy Baron