3 Visuals to Ease the Impact of Divorce on Children
Of course divorce and separation are big issues in children's lives, but their minds often make them even bigger because of their lack of knowledge about what to expect. Here are three visual concepts every child of divorce should know.
Kids need to understand that their family is changing; it is not being destroyed. In counseling, I give kids a handful of blocks and ask them to build something with them.
After they finish and have a moment to admire their creation, I ask them to shuffle up the same blocks and create something different.
Then I ask the child what he or she liked about each of the two creations and I point out things I liked as well. Using the same set of blocks, the child was able to make two different, interesting designs.
"Divorce is like that. Your family is not being destroyed. It is changing into something different. Similar to the way you liked things about each block design, there are things you will like about your family both before and after the divorce."
Depending on the child's individual circumstances, and where the family is at in the divorce process, I may point out things like: less fighting between parents now, enjoying things about each home and neighborhood they live in, having new step-family members to enter and enrich their lives, etc.
I reinforce these points with a second strategy. Pulling out a blank sheet of paper, I write the names of each of the child's family members in a large circle.
Then I say something along these lines:
"After the divorce, are you still going to love your dad? And will he love you? Of course." I then draw a colored, wavy line connecting the child with the dad.
"And you will still love your mom and she will love you, right?" I draw a wavy line between mom and the child and continue asking about and drawing lines between the child and every other family member. Then I do the same among other family members, establishing connections between each of them except the divorcing parents. Example: "And your mom will always love your brother, right?"
"The only family connection that is broken is between your mom and your dad."
"Everything else about your family works just fine. You will always have these people and will always have your love for them. That will not change. So much about your family works just fine. It's only the connection between your parents that is broken."
Finally, kids often struggle to see that the emotional pain they are feeling now is not going to last forever. A third strategy helps with this.
I ask kids to tell me about the worst injury they've ever had--a broken bone, a cut, a bruise, an illness. I ask them to describe what happened and how the pain felt that day.
If the injury was in a non-private area, like a knee or arm, I ask them to show me the spot and if there is a scar. Then I ask them to press on the spot with their finger.
"Does it hurt when you do that?"
"Because it healed."
"Just like that injury, the pain you feel from this divorce will heal. In the future, you may feel it only a little or not at all. It may leave a little scar. But today it hurts because it's as though today is the day you got your injury. Your heart was recently injured but it will heal."
To conclude, I have found these three little strategies to go a long way in helping kids through this difficult process. I hope you find them useful too! Subscribe below or follow on Facebook to see new articles when I can get around to uploading them.