Posts Tagged ‘children and divorce’

3 tips to help your children when their lives are in upheaval: Lessons learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver to help your family in difficult times

May 19th, 2011

What happens when you tell your spouse, “Oh, by the way honey I had an extra-marital affair and did I mention I had a child too”. It leads to some difficult dinner conversations to say the least. As a creative parenting expert my concern is how to help children cope with such a family bombshell of betrayal or infidelity.

This story resonates with so many, as it is likely you have experienced someone you loved sharing a betrayal or you have revealed a family secret to your loved ones. Regardless if you are the one betrayed or the betrayer, breaking someone’s trust or having your trust broken often stirs up feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness and blame.

Arnold, Maria, and Arnold’s mistress are all impacted by this public revelation, and as adults they have the opportunity to make decisions and communicate what they feel, but what happens to their children? How will they process this monumental moment when their lives have dramatically shifted and they have little control over the circumstances?

Here are 3 tips to help your children when their lives are in upheaval because of a betrayal or infidelity

  1. Communicate as a couple with your children and let them know what is happening and why. Children will intuitively pick-up on when there is a problem in your relationship, and it does not help your child to perpetuate a lie or secret. Share with your children what is happening in a neutral way, without yelling blaming or shaming the other person. Be aware of your child’s developmental age and how much information is too much. If it is possible, have both parents present when you are sharing information and allow your children an opportunity to ask questions. It may be difficult to share information when you are feeling angry and hurt, so ask for support from a therapist to help you share information that will in the best interest of your children. Here’s my advice for Maria and Arnold: sit the children down and calmly share what has happened and allow the children to ask questions.
  2. If you are the one who has been betrayed it is essential that you seek out support and allow yourself sometime to process your experience. Your family will be impacted by this information and it’s helpful for children to know what will happen next. If you are still reeling from emotions it will be difficult to make a rational decision that best serves you and your children. Children desire to feel safe and secure and when a betrayal occurs they may become anxious and easily overwhelmed. They will likely want to know what’s next, so be prepared to talk with them about what will happen next when you and your partner discuss the situation. Here’s my advice for Maria and Arnold: be clear on what will happen next and relay this to the children. Be concrete if at all possible, such as where they would be moving to, when, if it is permanent, what will happen with their schooling, would they have their own bedrooms, and when they would be able to see their mother or father. The more information your provide the more you can introduce a sense of control and normalcy into this time of transition.
  3. Provide your child with outlets for self-expression outside of your relationship. At times they may want to talk with you and ask you questions, and other times they may seem like they don’t care at all. Children will often mask their feelings, especially if they are worried about upsetting their parents or they feel like when they talk you put their other parent down. Every child is different, and if you notice changes in their behaviors or grades then it is time to seek out additional support. In the meantime, tell them you are willing to talk and listen to whatever they have to say. Allow your child an opportunity to talk without interrupting and take time to actively listen by stopping what you are doing and giving them your full attention. During this time it may be helpful to encourage your child to express themselves through art, play or sports- these are natural ways children process emotions and experiences. My advice to Maria and Arnold: no matter where they are living, ensure that their children are able to attend their regularly scheduled activities, even if it means driving them across town; while you are driving your children turn off the radio and listen to them instead.

In life there are moments when your life as you know it shifts completely, and what you once believed to be true changes dramatically. During this most difficult experience there is an opportunity to help your children learn to cope with change and upheaval. These 3 tips will help your child when your lives are turned upside-down by betrayal and infidelity.

If you are looking to support your child, we can help. Click here to schedule a complimentary Child Support Consultation and learn how you can help your child.


Ten Tips To Help Your Child Transition Through Divorce

April 25th, 2011

Wondering how your divorce or separation is impacting your child? These 10 tips will help your child. This article appeared in YourTango Expert Blog

Each year, more than 1 million children experience the divorce of their parents.  Divorce rates peaked in 1979-1981 at 5.3 per 1000 persons and decreased by 1995 to 4.4 per 1000 persons. Approximately 50% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in divorce (Cohen, American Academy of Pediatrics).  Moreover, the American Psychological Association notes that children of stepfamilies face higher risks of emotional and behavioral problems.

Scary statistics, however, there are things you can do to help your children during a time of transition.  It is important to use age appropriate explanations.  Children often believe they are the cause of divorce or they can fix it.

These ten tips will help your child adjust:

1. Never force your child to take sides or involve your child in an argument.

2. Don’t criticize or fight with you ex- spouse in front of your child. If your child overhears you arguing explain that sometimes people say hurtful things when they are upset, however there are better ways to communicate your feelings. Discuss your concerns with your ex when your child is not present.  It is not helpful to bring them into your arguments or adult discussions.

3. Respect the relationship they have with the other parent. It is important to let your children show their love to both parents and spend time with each without feeling guilty. Provide your child with reassurance that both their parents still love them even though they may only be living with one parent at a time.

4. Your children know more than you think they know- so talk with them early on and often.

5. Create safety by listening and trying to understand their point of view. Don’t try to rescue, overcompensate (by doing or giving them things), or problem solve. The best thing you can do is listen as they express their feelings, without judgment.

6. Be open about what is happening without giving too much unnecessary information. For example, “Your father and I are having problems and we need to separate because we cannot get along with each other”.

7. Let you child know that it is not their fault and they cannot fix the problem.

8. Do not blame your ex-spouse. This creates a problem with alliances. Your child needs you to model healthy boundaries so they do not become co-dependent, feeling like they need to be responsible for another’s well being.

9. Create a schedule. Children crave consistency; it is the way they feel psychologically and physically safe. Keep a routine, even amongst the transitioning between two households.

10. Let them know they are loved and you are willing to listen and try your best to answer questions they have.

If you are looking to support your child during the transition of divorce, we can help.  Click here to schedule a complimentary Child Support Consultation and learn how you can help your child.