Some relationships fail, and although we try to shield our little one's from the backlash that happens after a break up, it doesn't always work out. They are more aware than we think. Here are a few things that you can do to help your child navigate this new terrain.
- Seek therapy. Yes, this will always be my first answer, well after prayer of course. Why? Because therapy works, not just because I'm a therapist. It gives you additional support and resources and a safe place to process your feelings, thoughts and accomplishments. A therapist holds you accountable and helps you to sort out the painful truths that we often miss while we are in the middle. They guide you through the process of healing. Okay, I will move on.
- Talk to them about their feelings. Allow them to be open and frank about how they feel about the separation. They may have concerns about stability and whether or not they will see the other parent. Be honest and don't make promises that you can't keep. You can't control the other parent, so don't promise that they will see them regularly. I have seen the partner leave the child and their ex at the same time, even if he was an awesome dad before the break up. Give them a journal, they will need a safe space to process their thoughts and feelings outside of you and the therapist.
- Don't use your child as a therapist. They don't need to know the details about the break up. Answer their questions according to their maturity level. If you aren't sure how to do this, tell them that you will process it during your next therapy session and actually do it. Don't bash the absent parent in front of them. They will grow resentful, possibly towards you and that's not a good thing. Utilize your therapist, and support system to help you move through the grieving process.
- Be kind to yourself and your children. This is a new experience for you all, so be kind. Still set boundaries and have expectations, but be understanding if their grades fall a little or if they aren't their usual selves. They are grieving a loss too.
- Be mindful about introducing new people to them. It's okay to date, do you, have fun, but don't rush the process and seek counseling and work on yourself before you get too involved. We tend to choose the same type of men over and over again when we move on too fast. Never leave your children with a guy you just met. Give it at least a year before considering leaving them alone. I have some horror stories for you. Every guy seems like a good guy until he rapes your child.
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For more information about how to heal from a break-up or divorce read: Picking Up the Pieces to 100 Broken Promises by Yushima Cherry Burks. Available at all major bookstores.