Guest blog by Carrice Quinnie
5 tips for helping kids cope with divorce
Divorce is a very common, yet hard topic. I’m a child of divorce and now my two oldest girls are too. I was married to their father for only 3 years. When I left their father, the girls were only 2 and 4 years old. I always spoke to my children about their feelings, so during the divorce process this became more intense.
I decided to seek outside help. My oldest was holding things in and my youngest was the opposite; acting out. They had some sessions with me and some without me. The counseling helped them and me. If my children, all of a sudden, started crying and having a tantrum, I didn’t dismiss it as growing pains or behavior problems. I would ask: what was really wrong and talk about the real reason for the crying. Children may display a certain behavior, but it is only masking another underlying issue.
A child’s communication skills are minimal. Their behavior and deposition do the communicating for them. As parents, we must take the time to get to know our children and read the signs. Some of the steps I took to help my children cope with divorce were:
I was very honest with my children. I never said we were just going to grandma’s house for a vacation. When we were driving to my mother’s house, I told them, “Your father and I are going through a divorce. We will no longer live in the same household. It is not your fault.”
Never put the children in the middle
I never played my children against their father. I never talked to them about personal things that went on between him and me. I think when parents put children in the middle; it makes the child feel responsible for their parent’s happiness and well-being. As parents, we are responsible for our children–not the other way around.
I also received counseling alone. I had to take responsibly for my life. I was the parent my children saw every day. If I were always mad, crying, or couldn’t get out of bed, my children would mirror my behaviors. I had to stay coherent and make a life for my children. I had to be functional.
Start a new family routine
I started a family night. This was something special for our new family dynamic. This gave the girls something to look forward to all week long. I would let them plan it and invite any other family members. This gave them pride in our new family and it made them feel a sense of “togetherness” instead of separation.
I found my happy place. I had to let go of all anger and regret. My children were looking at me to see how to cope and how to react. I found a since of normalcy as a single mother. I reached out to other single mothers. I gave and received support. I didn’t have a pity party. I took ownership and responsibly for the part I playing in my failed marriage and learned from my mistakes and let go. I made a plan for our life.
The key to helping kids cope with divorce is…how you cope with the divorce.
We set the tone in the household. Our children look to us as role models. If we aren’t dealing with issues, our children will follow suit. Honestly taking the time to get to know each individual child, equipped me better to help them deal with their emotions about divorce.
We still have one-on-one talks to this day. I don’t set a time, but just as needed. I’m helping them to feel their emotions and not act out their emotions. Divorce is a common thing today. How we help our children cope with it may change the next generation so divorce just may not be as common in their futures.
Carrice Deering-Quinnie is a native of Columbus. She is a professional working in Corporate America with her current company for 6 years. Carrice is a divorced, single mother of three girls, ages 11, 9, and 5 months.
Photo Credit: graphicleftovers.com