How do we as coParents raise our child to be stronger following our separation or divorce? coParenting expert Colleen Rice has top tips.
1. Connect, Connect, Connect: Maintain connection between your child and as many relations and friends as possible after your divorce, especially the child’s other parent. The divorce will already be a serious transition in their life creating uncertainty and anxiety. Allowing them to be close to as many people as they already know and feel safe with will reduce the uncertainty. If you live close enough to their family and friends schedule regular interactions. You will want more familiar situations than the new situations they will be encountering. If you no longer live close, arrange frequent phone calls or video chat, texting, weekend play dates with friends, or sleepovers. The familiarity of their friends and family will create a sense of consistency, thus safety and security.
2. Stay Positive: Your child will read your cues around situations they are unfamiliar with (ie. seeing their other parent for the first time, attending a new school, sleeping in a new room, etc). If you present as apprehensive they will use this as a gauge for how to view the new situation. If you are positive and encouraging about a situation they will feel more at ease about it as well. If you prepare your child for talking excitedly about a new situation as if it will be fun they will believe it and look forward to the event. A little treat around the first times they experience big new events may help to get them excited.
3. Create and Maintain a Routine: Where possible plan with the other parent what the child’s day will look like following the divorce. School, daycare, living arrangements, extracurricular activities, contact with other parent and bedtime routine should be things they expect. Children will adjust much better to a new situation when there is a routine as they know what to expect.
4. Allow Down Time to Play Regularly: Allow time for you and your child to play with toys read favorite books, color, play music or swing. These activities are emotionally regulating to children in addition to just being enjoyable. Often, following a divorce we are busy as single parents but this playtime with your child meets so many of their emotional and developmental needs. Children will rarely come and tell us they are having a tough time emotionally. Children let us know they need us by seeking our attention and asking us to play with them or acting out behaviorally if those needs are not met. This could be through tantrums, or withdrawing which will interfere with their learning and development. Play is a child’s work and as adults we must appreciate the value of it and facilitate it as often as we can on a schedule they can predict.
5. Nurture the Development of Their Self Esteem: Let them know through age appropriate conversation that the divorce was not their fault and that it was an adult choice. Plan activities that allow them to help others: There are fewer things that build self esteem and confidence more than letting a child know that they are needed. If they are old enough you can plan volunteering with your child outside the home and if they are younger you can give them responsibility. They will feel as if they are an important part of something.