Helpful Hints for Parents in the Midst of Separation or DivorceDo’s
- Do let your children know that you care. Show them your love through words and actions.
- Do listen to your children. Encourage honest, open expression of their feelings without judging or trying to change them.
- Do tell your children the separation or divorce is not their fault. Adult choices are never a child’s fault.
- Do reassure your children that they are safe and will be provided for.
- Do let your children know that it is ok to love both of their parents. Support your children’s relationship with their other parent.
- Do maintain consistent discipline and structure in their lives. Re-establish their sense of security.
- Do be dependable about keeping promises to your children. Maintaining your children’s trust is important.
- Do inform your children’s teachers about family changes. Update emergency contact records.
- Do seek professional help for yourself or your children if needed.
- Do keep your sense of humor. Laughter can lighten stress.
- Do work on establishing new family traditions and activities.
- Don’t argue, blame or criticize the other parent in front of your children.
- Don’t use your children as messengers or spies.
- Don’t leave children in the dark about the details of their future, such as custody arrangements.
- Don’t use visitation or child support as bargaining tools with the other parent.
- Don’t expose your children to adult information such as intimate relationship details, financial concerns, or child support and court matters.
- Don’t allow your children to become counselors or confidants for your problems. Seek adult support from friends or professionals.
- Don’t allow your guilt to interfere with parental responsibility. Try not to be overprotective or use material things to compensate for their loss.
- Don’t expect your children to choose sides between parents.
- Don’t make your children responsible for making adult decisions.
What Children of Divorce want Caregivers to Know
- I need to feel emotionally and physically safe.
- I sometimes feel all alone and emotionally abandoned.
- I may daydream about my absent parent.
- I may regress to immature behavior.
- I wonder if my parents still love me.
- I feel as much distress as my parents do.
- I may be will to do anything-even being “bad” to unconsciously try to get my parents back together.
- I will remember any violence that I have seen or heard between my parents.
- I often feel confused because I don’t understand adult issues.
- I blame and shame myself when I hear negative statements about my parent(s). (lowered self-esteem)
- I many express my anger inappropriately by acting out or withdrawing.
- I may complain about feeling sick.
- I may not eat or sleep as well as usual.
- I may have trouble concentrating on my schoolwork.
- I worry a lot about my family and my future.
Stages of Grief from Separation
The grief process of separation or divorce often follows the stages of acceptance of death described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Children will move back and forth through these stages. Children need to be encourages to talk about their feelings of loss. If a child seems to get “stuck” in a stage for a prolonged time, consider getting professional advice.
Denial- This stage is often characterized by shock and numbness. Denial is used as an emotional buffer to the pain of loss. The child may pretend the separation didn’t occur or that it didn’t bother him/her.
Anger- In this stage the child may express anger toward God, the absent parent or the parent who remains for “sending the other parent away.” The child may even be angry at himself/herself for behavior that he/she believes made the parent leave. Feelings of rejection may contribute to the anger. Anger is a healthy and necessary emotion to feel. Accept the child’s anger by using reflective listening responses such as “You’re really feeling angry that your dad is gone.” Help the grieving child find appropriate outlets for his/her angry energy.
Bargaining- This stage may involve “making a deal” with God or parents in an attempt to “fix” things. Often a child will make promises of improved behavior so the parent will return. This indicates that the child is feeling guilty for the separation. When bargaining doesn’t work, more anger sets in.
Depression- When the reality of the separation sinks in, the child may feel helpless, very sad, physically sick or tired. The child may have internalized the anger, guilt, and loneliness. In extreme cases the depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. If this stage persists for two weeks or more, seek counseling.
Acceptance- If a child doesn’t get stuck in one of the former stages, he or she will reach this final stage of grief. Grief recovery time varies from a few weeks to two or more years. Once the reality of the loss is faces and accepted, life can move on with feelings of peace, happiness, and hope for the future.
Resources Used: Bender, J.M. (2004). Getting Yourself Together When Your Family Comes Apart. Coping with Family Changes. Chattanooga, TN: National Center for Youth Issues.
Helping your student prepare for taking tests
The best thing you as a parent can do to help your child do his or her best on tests and to reduce anxiety is to provide positive support by expressing confidence in your child’s ability to do their best. Let that be your expectation as well. Children should know that test scores are important, but are not the measure of your love and acceptance of them.
On test days, try to provide a calm, stress-free environment each morning as your child gets ready for school. Get up in plenty of time to avoid morning rush and anxiety.
Help teach and reinforce the following test-taking tips and strategies:
- Get plenty of rest each night
- Eat a good healthy breakfast
- Have a positive attitude
- Relax…Don’t fret
- Try Hard…Do your best
- Listen carefully and follow directions
- Think before you answer
- Read directions and questions carefully
- Don’t rush…work at middle speed
- Check over your work when finished
- Don’t expect to know every answer
Anxiety is a sense of worry, apprehension, and/or fear. It is considered to be the number on health problem in America. Although everyone feels anxious from time to time, approximately 10 percent of children have excessive fears and worries that can keep them from enjoying life. Although quite common, anxiety disorders in children are often misdiagnosed or overlooked. It is normal for everyone to feel fear, worry and apprehension from time to time, but when these feelings prevent a person from doing what he/she wants and/or needs to do, anxiety becomes a disability.
Here are a few tips for dealing with an anxious child:
- Genuinely accept your child’s concerns.
- Listen to your child’s perceptions and gently correct misinformation.
- Patiently encourage your child to approach a feared situation one step at a time until it becomes familiar and manageable.
- Always try to get your child to events on time, or early- being late can elevate levels of anxiety.
- Continually set equal expectations for all kids anxious or not. Expecting a child to be anxious will only encourage anxiety.
- Role-Play strategies- how to react in certain situations. Explore both best case scenarios and worst case scenarios using realistic evidence.
- Build your child’s personal strengths.
- Help your child organize their school materials for the next day the night before.
- Allow and encourage your child to think on his or her own.
- Designate a “safe person” at school that understands your child’s worries and concerns.
- Try not to pass your own fears onto your child.
- Work together as a team (family members, teachers, child, etc.)
- Set consequences- don’t confuse anxiety with other types of inappropriate behavior. Set limits and consequences so that you don’t allow anxiety to enable your child.
- Have reasonable expectations
AnxietyBC - http://www.anxietybc.com
Does any of this sound like your child or teen?
- clinging, crying, and/or tantrums when you separate
- excessive shyness, avoiding social situations
- constant worry
- avoiding situations or places because of fears
- complaints of frequent stomachaches or headaches
- experiencing sudden and frequent panic attacks
If so, your child may be experiencing anxiety.
Here, you will find practical strategies and tools to help you manage your child's anxiety, whether your child is just beginning to show symptoms, or has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. To begin, continue reading, to find out more about anxiety -- how it looks, how it works, and how to recognize if it is problematic. If your child has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may prefer to click immediately on this disorder on the menu.
As a parent of an anxious child, you are not alone.
Anxiety is the most common mental health concern for children and adults. Because anxious children and teens are often quiet and compliant, however, they frequently go unnoticed by their parents and teachers. As a result, many never receive the help they desperately need. Unfortunately, untreated anxiety can lead to other problems later in life, such as depression, missed opportunities in career and relationships, increased substance use, and an overall decreased quality of life.
Parents often say that from a very young age, they knew there was something different about their child, but did not immediately recognize it as an anxiety problem. Some waited for their child to "grow out of it", never expecting their child to become even more debilitated over time. Parents of anxious children and teens are often confused about what to do, as well as frustrated, and overwhelmed.
The good news: Anxiety can be successfully managed!
Parents play an essential role in helping their child or teen manage anxiety. When coping skills and brave behavior is rewarded and role-modeled in the home, children and teens can learn to face their fears, take risks, and ultimately gain confidence.
As a parent, remember that you are the most influential person in your child's life. See "Helpful Tips for Parents" and "Healthy Habits for the Home" for important ways in which you can begin to help your anxious child or teen.
What you (and your child!) Need to Know about Anxiety
Anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in time. For example, it is normal to feel anxious when on a rollercoaster or before an exam.
Anxiety is not dangerous. Although anxiety feels uncomfortable, it is temporary, and will eventually decrease.
Anxiety is adaptive. Anxiety helps us prepare for real danger, such as crossing a busy street. It can also help us perform at our best, and motivate us to study for an exam or practice for a big game. When we experience anxiety, it triggers our "fight-flight-freeze" response, and prepares our body to react. For instance, our heart beats faster, to pump blood to our muscles, so we have the energy to run away or fight off danger. Without it, we would not survive.
Anxiety becomes a problem when our body reacts in the absence of real danger.
For more information on how to explain anxiety to your child, see "How to talk to your Child about Anxiety"