Help children process the news of a divorce! Part #I
Montreal Art Therapy
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Children have different reactions to their parents’ separation, which is in accordance with their developmental stage.
Pre-schoolers may cry, ignore the news, pretend they haven’t heard anything and ask for permission to go play, or show no emotion at all. But, no matter what their initial reaction to the big new is, it does not mean that they are fine with it. Most of the time, their emotional and/or behavioral reaction to divorce unfolds within time.
“Play” has a critical role in processing difficult information for kids. Pre-schoolers’ play may demonstrate families (of animals, dolls, cars, etc) with themes of going on trips, fights, yelling at, leaving, loneliness, and empty houses, which allows kids to practice control over their feelings regarding divorce and separation, i.e. they control who leaves, when they leave, etc. Adults process the same difficult information through talking to friends, family, and therapists and through critical thinking.
A few tips for parents:
Allow children process the divorce on their own pace
Grant children much time to play (to process the information)
Directly engage yourself in their play
Read and draw with them ( i.e, draw a picture of mommy and daddy separately or read books with a theme of a divorce)
Encourage kids to talk about their feelings in regard to divorce (i.e, I have noticed that you have been angry lately… I wonder if it has anything to do with our separation). If they are open to talk about it, give them as much time as they need to talk.
Continuously reassure kids that they are being loved by both parents
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