MY husband and I have just separated and our young children aged four and six aren't coping too well. I'm trying to be as supportive as I can but they are showing signs of distress (super tantrums, crankiness, bad behaviour etc). What can I do? Newly single mum
For children, having their parents separate is stressful, sad and confusing. You can, as a parent make this less painful for your children and one of the keys to this is to provide stability and routine in your home. Also try to be positive and reassuring to your children, no matter how you feel. If you are struggling then you need to take these emotions elsewhere.
These tips can help your children to cope:-
Routine: keep to your routine as routine gives children security and stability. It also means to them that you care. You don’t need rigid routines, and they don’t have to be exact at mum and dads but they need to be consistent and you need to make sure your kids understand the routine.
Patience: be patient; reassure them with lots of extra hugs and cuddles, they need the physical not just words.
Your ex husband: you will still be parents together for many, many years, so you still need to have a relationship with your ex, it is ESSENTIAL that you can both still work together in what is the best interest of your children. Help your kids avoid the stress that comes with seeing their parents’ conflict.
Help them to express their feelings: Listen, and really listen to them, help them to find words or draw pictures about their feelings, reassure them, you may not be able to change their feelings but just listening and not becoming defensive or upset, reassures young children.
Lots of children believe that they had something to do with mum or dad leaving. They think about the time they got into trouble or didn’t do as you ask and think in their little minds that this is the reason why – they are just trying to make sense of what has happened. So be sure to be truthful but brief (they don’t need lots of details) as to why mum and dad are not together because if you avoid this they will think it was them.
For children a separation is a loss: and they are grieving, a loss of a parent, a loss of a life they know. So give them time, however if after several months they are still very stressed then you need to seek some counselling for them and you with a professional who works with children.
As this is such a big question to answer I will also post some additional information for parents facing this family issue on my website, under parent resources this week. So have a look to learn more www.babysmiles.com.au