Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls
Food For Thought
Try A Little Tenderness
Sometimes during a divorce, parents are so distraught and upset, they forget to consider that their children might be grieving in their own way. Children of all ages are just as impacted by the divorce as their parents are. When you think about it, their sense of family has been forever changed. No longer will their parents reside in the same home and they will need to go back and forth between two homes.
As the parents fight each other in court and sometimes outside of the courtroom their children are well aware of their animosity towards each other. It tears them up inside. Emotions being what they are, both parents might be less able to cope and be effective with their own feelings and often forget that their kids need more understanding than before.
It’s time to re-connect emotionally. I notice that when kids, whose parents are in the middle of intense conflict, come into my office they are helped by stroking the therapy dogs that I have. Some kids actually cuddle with the dogs on the couch, somehow helped by their close physical contact with the dogs.
As a parent you can help them out by realizing that they are also grieving. They might show it in interesting ways, by being sad but more often than not, by acting out and perhaps being angry.
Be patient. Help them process what they might be feeling inside. Tell them that it’s okay to have these feelings.
Do not burden them with your adult issues. Try to shield them as much as you can from the details that you are arguing about. If because of the proceedings you have been separated for a while, be patient and try to reconnect. Your child will need to make a different relationship with you than before. It will now be just about you and your children...the other parent won’t be there for the visit any more.
Give them time to ‘come around’ to these new ideas. You might be told that they miss the other parent or they would prefer to be with that other parent. Don’t be devastated by this. It’s new. It’s going to take time. Try a little tenderness.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
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