There are a number of institutions in South Africa that provides Divorce Counselling.
How you react to a divorce depends to a large extend on whether you have instigated the ending or not and/or how far you are in the process. Different feelings are associated with different stages. However, a good counsellor will confirm that it is completely normal to:
A counsellor offering divorce counselling should be able to help you to
Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage and is a painful experience for all concerned. It can be caused by a number of factors and is sometimes the only choice for two people experiencing extreme marriage difficulties. It is becoming increasingly prevalent and unfortunately is often begun by people who are totally unprepared for the consequences. The process of divorce can have particularly damaging effects on children. Counsellors therefore place emphasis on the relationship between estranged parents, encouraging mutual support and respect in order to provide any children involved with the stability that a harmonious parental partnership would bring.
More than anything else, kids want to feel protected and loved. Throughout the trials of divorce, provide reassurance and love to your kids every step of the way. All of us, and especially children, are resilient and we have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support that we need. Let your kids know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents. Reassure them that everyone in the family will get through this. Knowing that things will eventually be okay can provide incentive for your kids to give the new situation a chance.
For kids, divorce means the loss of a parent and the loss of life as they know it. Even though both parents remain physically present, a child’s sense of stability is upset because the family unit is broken apart. Your support will allow them to grieve their loss and eventually adjust to their new circumstances.
Below are some important ways that you can help your children express their feelings:
The uncertainty of life after divorce often causes children to worry. The family unit they counted on is breaking apart. In addition to emotional reassurance, physical comfort in the form of order and continuity can also ease their worries. This is not always easy while splitting up into two new households, but it is important.
Establishing continuity doesn’t mean that you need rigid schedules or that mom and dad’s routines should be exactly the same. However, creating some regular routines in the day and consistently communicating what to expect will provide more comfort to your kids than you might realize.
Many people know the benefit of schedules and organization for younger children, but forget that older children appreciate it as well. Kids feel more safe and secure when they know what to expect next. This can be about things as minor as dinner time, bath time and bedtime. Setting up a few established routines or rituals will show the continuity of mom and dad’s love and diminish uncertainty about new living arrangements.
When talking with your children about the separation or divorce, it is important to be honest, but not critical of your spouse. Depending on the age of your children and the reason for divorce, this may require some diplomacy.
Here are a few suggestions for talking with your kids about the separation or divorce:
Age level should be your guide in determining how much to tell your child about the separation or divorce. Generally younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation. Older children will seek out more information and it will be up to you to share information without saying too much.
Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce. They may remember times when they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble and associate those conflicts with their parents’ break up.
Although the discussion about divorce should be tailored to a child’s age, maturity, and temperament, be sure to convey one basic message: What happened is between mom and dad and does not have anything to do with the kids. Most kids will feel they are to blame even after parents have said they are not. So it’s vital for parents to keep providing this reassurance. Treat your child’s confusion or misunderstandings with patience. Reassure your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.
The first safety instruction for an airplane emergency is to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. Providing good care for your children means being emotionally available to them, and you can only do that if you are taking care of yourself. Depending on your physical and emotional state, you will either be reassuring or distressing to your child. If you are able to be calm and emotionally present, your kids will feel more at ease.
Steps to take care of yourself
Try to bring humour and play into your life and the lives of your children as much as you can -it relieves stress but more importantly, it adds joy and provides a break from sadness and anger.
If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame or guilt about your spouse, find someone to help you work through those feelings. By processing your emotions through writing or talking with supportive people, you will be modeling ways for your kids to better cope with their strong emotions.
Disagreements are bound to arise when dealing with your ex. If you find yourself, time after time, locked in battle, and frustrated about his or her inability to put the children first, try to step back and remember the big picture. It sounds clichéd, but it will be best for your kids to have a good relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives. If you can keep that long term goal in mind, you may be able to avoid disagreements about daily details.
Children need people to talk to other than their parents. Some kids may avoid telling their parents their true feelings because they feel guilty adding to their problems. They may more freely express themselves with someone outside the situation, whether it be a friend, teacher, relative or counsellor.
Be sure to tell your children’s teachers, counsellors, caregivers, babysitters, and athletic coaches about the situation at home. Teachers in particular should be trained in helping children. Other key people in your children’s lives will appreciate knowing what is going on and you can let them know how best to support your children.
Kids may need to learn new skills to manage stress and to cope with situations over which they have no control.
Additional skills and support may come from:
Recognizing anger, anxiety, depression and traumatic stress in your kids Sadness, anger and anxiety are normal responses to loss. Love, reassurance and support for your children should allow them to heal, but sometimes factors beyond your control overwhelm your children and can create long term problems. Why is my child having such a hard time moving forward? Many children go through their parents’ divorce with relatively few problems, and others have a very difficult time. Significant changes in a child’s life can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response – anger or fear – and if a child cannot adequately express or mentally process those emotions, the child may feel extremely powerless and “freeze.” This reaction is the basis of traumatic stress.
If a child gets stuck in certain emotions, they may have a hard time getting ‘unstuck.’ Fear and uncertainty affect kids in a variety of ways, and you should be attentive for behaviours that signal your child needs help. Your availability, willingness to listen and reassurance should help them, but sometimes outside help is necessary as well.
Recognize that it will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the separation or divorce, but you should see gradual improvement over time. If things get worse rather than better after several months, that may be a sign that your child is stuck in depression, anxiety or anger and could use some additional support. Professional intervention may be necessary. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be very helpful with anxiety and depression.
Watch for these warning signs of divorce-related depression or anxiety:
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