Here are five suggestions for how divorcing parents can provide support to their children in the new year:
1. Keep expectations realistic.
Children go through a grieving process just as their parents do when the marriage ends. Their energy and focus may be impacted, and this can affect their performance in school, sports or the arts. If this happens, be gentle with your child, who will be even more unhappy if s/he feels like a failure in a parent’s eyes.
2. Remind your child regularly that s/he is cherished.
Children do best when they experience unconditional love and support from parents. This includes being curious and interested in your child’s ideas, stories and day-to-day experiences.
3. Find time to do something enjoyable with your child.
If you are fortunate enough to have the time and energy to go on a date with your child to do something mutually enjoyable this can be a great bonding experience. However, kids my love the opportunity to play a board or video game with a parent, or make popcorn or brownies together before watching a movie at home.
4. Maintain routines.
Most children, just like most adults, depend on routines to keep a sense of stability in their lives. Keep routines for mealtimes, bedtimes, homework time, doing chores, etc. as predictable as possible.
5. Be authentic.
Children rely on parents to be trustworthy. There may be days when it is difficult to not be sad, or when patience is in short supply because of the stress of the divorce. It’s okay to be real with your children about your feelings as long as you keep them out of the middle of any conflict with your co-parent, and as long as you are very careful to not imply that a child is responsible for making a parent feel better. “I’m pretty sad today, so I don’t have a lot of energy. But I know feelings don’t last forever, and I’ll feel better soon.”
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