Separation isn’t easy for anyone. It is often a very difficult time for parents; neither of you planned nor wanted this in the beginning. There’s been a drastic change in what you’d hoped, planned and envisioned. Now that it’s happened, you’re having to manage your own emotions and might also be worrying: what effect is this going to have on my child? Here are 5 ways that you and your partner can support your child through separation:
- Be with your child in their emotions: Separations can be very difficult for children to understand and come to terms with. Often children feel upset, confused and angry that their parents are no longer together. They may also need to grieve for the loss of the way their family used to be. Whatever your child is feeling, they need you to be there for and with them; listen and understand.
- Let your child be the child; not confidante: In separations, both parents can feel intense hurt, anger and grief, among other emotions. Sometimes it is very difficult for parents not to share these feelings with their children, as they might want their child to understand the situation. However, your child needs you to be “bigger, stronger, wiser, and kinder” than them. Even though you are hurt, your child needs you to contain their emotions; NOT be further confused by yours.
- Reassure your child: When we are young, our brains tell us that the world revolves around us; that everything that happens is connected to us. This means that children can often think their behaviour caused their parents to separate. It can help to emphasise that there was nothing your child did or could have done, to cause or change this; this is between you and your partner. Reinforce that you both love your child and always will.
- Consistency: Your child has been used to one set of parents, one set of rules and one household. This consistency helps children to feel more settled, calm and secure, as they have an understanding of how their world works. In order to help them continue to feel this sense of security and stability, try and establish consistent house rules and routines in both households.
- Quality time: In the daily grind of school, work, chores etc., it can be easy for the day to slip by without actually getting to connect with your child. This time becomes even more precious following separation, when you might not have as many opportunities to share time with your child. Make sure to plan quality time, so that you and your child can truly enjoy each other.
These guidelines may help you to support your child through a very difficult time. We do acknowledge that each child and family is unique, and may wish for more individualised support during this process. We have found that numerous families have benefited from more in-depth support from one of our child psychologists, and welcome you to make contact with our practice.
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