Kids Cope with Divorce
of the major things you'll have to address as a newly divorced dad
is how your children are going to react to the dramatic upheaval that's
going on in their lives right now. Here are some strategies you can
use to help your children cope:
Simply put, the better you and your ex get along (at least in front
of the kids) the better your children will adjust.
your personal feelings about your ex.
You may think she was a horrible wife and maybe you're right. But
none of that means she's a bad parent. So unless you're sure she's
doing something dangerous or irresponsible with the kids, what you
think of her as a person is irrelevant.
Kids need consistency and limits, now more than ever. But while consistency
is important, don't just blindly go along with your ex's way of doing
things. You're a parent too and you have an equal say in how you're
going to raise your children. In addition, try to minimize the disruptions
to their school, homework, meal, extracurricular activity, chore,
and bedtime routines.
make any big changes.
Your breakup has shocked your kids enough for a while. Switching schools,
moving to a new house, or any other major change is too much for them
your emotions under control.
Your kids will cope with the divorce pretty much the way you do. If
you fall apart or get depressed and withdrawn, they will too; if you
run around blaming everyone else and acting like a victim, so will
they. But if you can keep it together--at least in front of them--they
will too. This doesn't mean that you should ignore your feelings and
smile all the time. It does mean, however, that you shouldn't wallow
in your grief.
it's time to call in the professionals
Sometimes, despite all your efforts to help your kids cope with your
divorce, your children will need more help than you can possibly provide.
No, you're not a bad parent; you're just a loving father who knows
If, for example, your child suddenly starts regressing (a return to
bed wetting after being dry for a while, thumbsucking again after
having given it up, becoming clingy after being having been independent,
etc.) and doesn't recover within a few weeks, get him some help.
If your child withdraws from family or friends, suddenly changes friends,
has wild mood swings, becomes uncharacteristically violent or aggressive,
or starts having problems at school, and any of this last more than
a few weeks, get him some help.
watch out for your sons (if you have any). Even 4-year-olds know
that "big boys don't cry" and they're likely to try to
be tougher than they really should be. But exhibiting no reaction
at all to your divorce could be a sign that your son isn't dealing
with the situation in a healthy manner.
When looking for a therapist for your children, interview a few
candidates before you make your final choice. Go with someone who
has lots of experience with kids of divorce and be sure to find
one who appreciates that you want to be involved in you kids' lives
and supports you in that effort.
Brott, the father of two daughters, lives in the Bay Area. A frequent
magazine contributor, he is the author of The Expectant Father and
The New Father (both from Abbeville). You can find him at Armin@MrDad.com.
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