We understand the level of stress and emotion on you as a parent is at high levels when going through separation and divorce, but there are some telltale signs you should look for in your little ones. Depending on their age, they may not know how to fully communicate what they are feeling and what may be appropriate. It will be your job to help guide them through this experience as best as you can while you transition into co-parenting.
While every situation and every family is unique, there are certain signs you can look for that are to be flagged as mini cries for help. These reactions and behaviors are ways stress is manifested in young children.
Fear and Uncertainty
For most children, they feel the rug has been pulled out from under them. First and foremost you will need to slip on some ‘kid gloves’, be (extra) patient, loving and understanding with them. During this time hang onto as many family traditions and habits as possible – bedtime rituals, going to school habits, lunches, etc.
A ‘Rainbow of Emotions’
It may or may not be clear that your children are going through their own cycles of distress, anxiety, anger, and sadness. They will act out. This is to be expected. Perhaps you have a tween son that appears to be a little (or a lot) more aggressive with his little brother or perhaps your teenage daughter has emotionally ‘shut down’ on you. Apathy or a lack of emotion is part of the ‘rainbow’ of emotions, don’t be surprised if this plays out.
It’s all part of the emotion process.
It’s better to respond with patience and love than anger. Find ways for your kids to channel their energy and emotions. Sign one up for karate to work through and control their emotions, or sign another one up for yoga or meditation so they can learn about being in the moment. Chances are you could use those classes yourself.
The Lash Out
We have all been there. You had a bad day at work, you suck it up for the sake of getting through the day and then by the time you get home you are nothing but an ‘Angry Bear’. Expect the same from your kids. And just like your situation where you do your best to keep it bottled up only to get home and you find yourself ripping into your kids for not unloading the dishwasher or something – give your children a little slack. The home space is a place for unconditional love. Seeing, hearing and feeling them lash out at trusted loving adults and family members may be disturbing and out of character but illustrates they feel they are in a ‘safe’ space. The fact they feel it’s okay to act out of character (aka act up) may be a sign they need to blow off steam, express themselves.
Magic is Everywhere
With young ones, they will openly fantasize about turning back time, changing (their) reality. Indirectly, they may want to change things they feel may have led up to their parents divorcing; if they only got better grades, or won that soccer game, or remembered to do their chores, etc.
While this may provide clues as to what and where their thoughts are at, it is on you to help level set on what the reality is. First and foremost you will need to use direct language to help them realize you and your spouse are not getting back together and ultimately it is for the betterment of the entire family.
Just like adults, children process things at their own pace and run through emotions in their own unique way. Trust that as the separation plays out and you go through the process of rebuilding your home and restructuring your family you are best to maintain a special focus on the health and emotional well-being of your children. Be kind, show them extra love and keep your parenting decisions focused on what is best for the children.
At coParenter, we provide a service that helps give co-parents the parenting tools they need to keep the focus on their kids. When issues arise you can you have unlimited access to a coParenter professional in our app to help resolve things.