How to help a child deal with the turmoil and distress caused by a family break-up…
A family break-up is never easy to deal with, especially for children who often experience a range of challenging emotions that can make it difficult to cope. Divorce or separation can set a whole wheel of emotions in motion: a sense of loss, grief, confusion, anxiety and sometimes guilt. Here are 10 ways you can help a child navigate the ups and downs of a family separation:
“You’re not to blame…”
Reassure the child that the breakdown of a relationship is not, and will never be, their fault. Many children experience a sense of guilt and blame themselves for the situation. If they’ve behaved badly lately, for example, which resulted in family tensions, they may wrongly think that this is the reason for the split.
Really listen when they tell you how they’re feeling and address any concerns they might have. Many children will feel fearful or unsure of the future because it feels as if their world has just been turned upside-down. Try to give reassurances where you can .
“It’s OK to be upset…”
Let the child know that it is perfectly fine to be upset and it can be healthy to cry. Encouraging children to be open and honest about their feelings and to come to you or another member of staff when they feel overwhelmed with emotions.
“Same time next week?”
Do your absolute best to keep up consistency. Children can find it easier to adjust to a family breakdown when their usual routines remain in place. Encourage children to keep to their usual activities, like clubs and social events, where they can.
“Not in front of the kids…”
Conflict is common in break-ups, especially in the early days when feelings are raw, and this can be damaging to a child.
“We’re still a family…”
Reassure the child that although their immediate family unit has changed, the situation will not affect their relationship with the wider family. Encourage them to keep up a healthy relationship with all their family members if possible.
“Your opinion matters…”
Let children know that their views matter. Encourage them to be open at home with opinions and suggestions, this will help them feel as if they have some sense of control in this situation, no matter how small.
“It’s OK, I understand your frustrations…”
Try to provide support and guidance by letting the child know that you can understand why they feel frustrated or angry. Talk to your child about different ways to control and cope with anger. Your child can read our I Feel So Angry All The Time and 10 Ways To Calm Down advice to learn more about coping techniques.
“You don’t have to take sides…”
Encourage the child to not take sides, avoid talking negatively about any family. It’s an unfair burden to put on a child and can make them feel torn between the two people they love most in the world.