Helping kids deal with stress after divorce

Helping kids deal with stress after divorce

Divorce is hard on everyone and all the more so on kids. Kids experience none of the possible empowerment a divorce can eventually bring, and often feel the brunt of the losses as a result. They are also developmentally less able to cope with stress and change without support.

Kids experience many losses in divorce

They experience losses in:

  • their future. Even if they have never formally thought about it, they most likely imagined living as a family (with both parents), until they grew up and moved out. Now the family looks different.
  • their home. Many divorces result in the sale of the family home and a move.
  • their friends and relatives. If the family moves, the children’s relationships with their friends may be disrupted because of distance; relationships with family members, such as aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins may also change depending on the nature of the post-separation relationship between the parents and their families.

In addition to all the changes they are experiencing, they will be grieving.

The main thing to remember is that kids of all ages may have challenges verbalizing their upset. It is more likely for kids to show their distress than to talk about it.

If your child is acting up, or acting out, it’s likely because they are feeling overwhelmed. When kids are overwhelmed, they need help. It is  beyond their capacity to sort their emotions out on their own.

When kids are upset, what they need most is a “time in” rather than a “time out.”

Taking  “time in”

Time in is the opposite of time out.

Social isolation and withdrawal of adult accompaniment only exacerbate the alarm and emotional dysregulation a child feels when they are upset.

Time in allows the child to receive attention and care so they can eventually calm down. The child is invited to leave the action with a care giver, and the two sit together in a quiet spot. The adult helps the child express their feelings.

During the time in, the caregiver empathizes with the child’s feelings—not the behaviour. Often the quiet, calm company of an adult is all that is needed until the storm has passed. Then together the adult and child can, if necessary, debrief and troubleshoot the problem at hand.

It may seem like this takes too long, especially when you are rushed and stressed , but the investment of time now will preserve your connection with your child, thereby saving time in the long run by preventing the development of bigger issues.

As with all advice, you may find it easy to read but hard to implement. If you want support, please reach out.

About Shulamit Ber Levtov

For over 17 years Shulamit has helped women and men transform the effects of stress and trauma. She has logged thousands of hours of 1-to-1 and group work with hundreds of clients in a variety of public and private settings. She also speaks and facilitates classes and trainings locally, internationally and online. Shulamit is the owner and clinical director of Kemptville's holistic stress and trauma clinic, the Kemptville Stress Relief Centre. Shulamit holds a Masters in Counselling and Spirituality, is a registered social worker and a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher. She also has the distinction of being the third person in the world to be dually certified as a trainer in both Nonviolent Communication and Focusing. To contact Shulamit call 613-868-9642 or email info@compassionatesupport.ca .