It is no secret that separation and divorce is difficult for everyone involved. It is a time of stress and anxiety and children often have many questions such as, “What’s going to happen to me?”, “Where am I going to live?” or“Who am I going to live with?” Depending on a child’s age, this transition to their new normal may prove to be quite difficult and upsetting.
There are ways in which you can try and ease this transition and make it easier on your child. The biggest way to make this a little calmer on your child is consistency, consistency, consistency! The more things stay the same for the child, the better. For many children, the back and forth between their parents’ houses is what causes the most stress and the change in routine can cause anxiety. Again, it is the unknown that causes the most anguish in any situation. As long as you can keep the child’s routine as similar as possible, the easier this transition will be.
It’s also important to monitor your child’s behaviour and try and pinpoint the triggers for their stress, anxiety and/or behavioural concerns. Pay attention to when your child seems to be suffering the most – is it before they leave your home to go to their other parent’s home, is it after they return, does it make a difference if you pick up the child from school or is it worse this way?
All of these things can help you determine how to ensure that their transition is as smooth as possible. If you find that your children clings to you when their other parent picks them up from your house, switch the routine so the other parent picks up the child from school. Simple changes like this may be very beneficial for the child.
Routines and rituals are often the best way to help your child cope with a separation and divorce. If you find that your child has great difficulty every time you drop him/her off at the other parent’s home, have the other parent create a ritual (or distraction) for drop-off time. That way, your child will always know what to expect when she gets to the other parent’s home and it will be something for the child to look forward to. This will hopefully help to ease the anxiety and promote a sense of security for the child.
Every child is different and will react in different ways. It is important to notice your child’s cues and be empathetic to their needs. Create a safe space for your child so that he/she feels comfortable sharing their feelings and struggles with you.
Some children can really benefit from seeing a counsellor who can help them work through their emotions and provide them with some coping skills that will help them through this process.