Divorce is a difficult experience for everyone involved, but it can be especially traumatic for any children involved. They may experience a variety of emotions such as anger, worry, guilt and sadness. Sometimes they can find it hard to recognise and express those feelings.
Children need to express their feelings in order to deal with them in a healthy way. However, younger children in particular may not have the verbal skills to talk their problems through and older children might not know where to start. It can really help to find alternative ways for your children to communicate their feelings with you.
Here are a few suggestions you might like to try:
- Create a family scrapbook
Making a family scrapbook can help children piece together who and what is important in their lives. Include pictures of, for example, their new room, new home and new family life. You could even make a scrapbook for ‘life with mum and dad separately’.
- Draw pictures
Younger children often find pictures an easier way to communicate than written or spoken words. 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 suggest that they:
- draw a picture of each member of the family;
- draw a picture of what their new family might look like
- draw a picture of how they are feeling
- draw what they think about when they hear the word ‘divorce’.
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 just want to scribble furiously with a crayon. 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 the 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.
- Role play
Children learn and express themselves through play. While 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 times to act as characters. Whilst you are playing with your children you might find they feel less pressured and are more willing to talk.
- 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 of their feelings down and be completely honest. Reassure them that they don’t have to send the letter and neither do they have to let anyone else see it. Respect their rights to keep the letter confidential.
- Memory box
Cherished memories don’t always fit in an album so why not create a memory box to help your children 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 memories as well as 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 also be an effective way of understanding how their lives are changing.
- Use books and cards
Many bookshops offer a range of sensitively written children’s books that deal with the difficult subjects of divorce. Choose the book that looks appealing and easy to understand and read it together. 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 ‘feelings’ cards which can show feelings in a child friendly picture form. These cards are a visual way into your child’s feelings and help them identify and share those feelings.
- Exercise together
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.
Whichever ways you choose to help your children express their feelings, this will help them to feel happier about their new lives and new future.