Divorce is a difficult experience for everyone but it can be especially traumatic for the children involved. They can experience emotions such as fear, anger, worry, guilt, and sadness and may find it hard to recognise and express them.
Children need to express their feelings in order to deal with them in a healthy way. However, they may not have the verbal skills to talk their problems through. For this reason, it can really help to find alternative ways for your children to communicate their feelings with you. Below are a few suggestions you might like to try:
Create a family scrapbook
Making a family scrapbook can really help children piece together who and what is important in their lives. Include pictures of their new room, favourite things, new home(s) and new family life. You can make a scrapbook for life with mum and dad separately.
Children often find pictures an easier way to communicate than the written or spoken word. Children’s books are full of pictures and they may have experience of drawing and painting through school or nursery. You could sit down together and:
- Draw a picture of what your new family might look like
- If you could wish for anything what would it be? Make a picture of it.
- What does a divorce look like? Can you draw it?
- What does a happy/sad face look like? Can you draw your own face?
Encourage your children to draw anything they like and don’t get concerned about the artistic quality of what comes out. It may be that younger children want to scribble furiously with a crayon and this might release feelings of frustration for them.
Make a comic
Older children might enjoy making a comic together with you. You could help them to draw their family and make up a story together based on what is happening in your lives. Keep it simple and encourage them to let their ideas flow
Write a letter
Older children with more developed writing skills might want to write a letter to either or both of their parents. Encourage them to write all their feelings down and be completely honest, and reassure them that they don’t have to send the letter if they don’t want to. Respect their confidentiality if they don’t want anyone to see it
Children learn and express themselves through play. Whereas adults may be used to talking about their feelings, children may only be able to truly feel comfortable in their own world of play. You can tap into this by using role-play. Create puppets out of paper bags with faces drawn on or use some of your children’s toys to act as ‘characters’. Whilst you are playing with your children you might find they feel less pressurised and are more willing to talk.
Cherished memories don’t always fit in an album so why not create a memory box to help your child remember how many wonderful things have happened in their lives. Fill it with things that remind them of who they are, letters from you and your ex-partner telling them how much you love them, and items that evoke happy times, special events and the people in their lives.
Make a family tree
Family history is an important part of our lives. By creating a family tree your children will not only discover their life story, but it could be an effective way of understanding how their lives are changing.
Books and cards to help you understand
Many high street bookshops offer a variety of sensitively written children’s books that deal with the difficult subject of divorce. Choose a book that looks appealing and easy to understand and read it together with your child. You don’t have to ask questions but talking about fictional characters could be a good way of getting a conversation started.
Bookshops and the Internet also offer a range of ‘Feeling Cards’ which show feelings in a child friendly picture form. If you or your children aren’t very confident with drawing, these can offer a visual way in to your child’s feelings and help them identify and share those feelings with you.
Spending time outdoors exercising gives you and your children the opportunity to let off steam and have some fun. Exercise is a great stress buster and can give children a legitimate outlet for feelings of anger and frustration.