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Kids Dealing With Divorce

by Nana

I would love to see more about kids dealing with divorce and how we can help them with their feelings.

My grandsons, 2 1/2 and 5 have an absent father and its very sad to see them hurt.. they and their Mom live with me and Mom is so hurt and busy with work and her life that they miss her too.

Thanks Nana

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Kids and Divorce - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for your email Nana, your daughter is blessed to have your support at this time.

It is always hard for Parents or Grandparents to see kids get hurt. And unfortunately often the parents are hurting and just can't be very available for their children.

So Grandparents are in a really great position to be able to help the children adjust to the changes in the family.

If Grandparents focus on looking for the best in the situation, then that helps the grandchildren to adjust too. If we worry and focus on what we think are mistakes our children are making, or how hard it is for them, then we are actually contributing to the pain and disharmony the Grandchildren are already dealing with.

Keep your own sadness out of the way - if you focus on the misery, they will pick up on that too. They may get lots of that with Mom as she moves through the grieving stages.

In the case of a divorce, the most important thing children need to know, is that Mom and Dad still love them. Just because they don't want to live together anymore doesn't change how much they love the children. Unfortunately all to often children are used as weapons against the other parent, or to gather information about other relationships etc, or parents take out their pain on the kids.

The issues and problems in the relationship are not going to go away with separation. Parents who have a lot of distress and bad feeling in the relationship will carry that over into the break up. So it is important to help the kids to separate out from the "stuff" that is junk from the parents, and to shift their focus onto the loving aspect of Mom/Dad.

Now it sounds from your email, that in your case Dad is absent, so that can be hard for kids to rebuild the relationship and continue to feel loved.

But in some ways we don't really loose anything when a parent moves away. We will always have that parent inside us, it is only the physical situation that has changed, so helping kids to understand that there is so much more energetically and they are still connected to Daddy anywhere he is. You can draw them in the middle of a piece of paper and draw bright colored lines to the people in their lives and have them imagine sending messages and love (and receiving also) down those lines to Dad and Mom - or any other Grandparents who may have passed on.

Kids sometimes act up because they are picking up on all the stress from Mom or Dad, or don't feel they can still love Dad because Mom is upset with him.

Help the kids to express how they feel, sad, mad, confused etc
and also help them to focus on what they love about Daddy (and Mommy)

You can help them write a letter to Dad (or the absent parent) or
draw a picture and you can write the story. Even if you can't actually post it, they have still had an opportunity to write to him, so it helps them deal with their feelings.

Part Two Follows . . . . .

Kids and Divorce - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Part Two:

Let them explore their sad feelings, and then help them to focus on what is special with Daddy for example:
I like when Daddy tickles me, or I liked when Daddy read us a story - Daddy is funny when he shaves in the morning - Daddy makes funny faces when he eats his breakfast. Even if he was mean to Mom, or grumpy, there will still be little things that they like or enjoy about Dad.

They can make up a story about what it might be like when Daddy visits, or what they want to do with Daddy when they do get to see him again. We often try to protect our kids from being hurt when a parent has withdrawn contact, and try to make them forget or not have expectations. But having dreams and being able to express them helps to bring it all in the open instead of having to squash down how they feel.

You don't have to bring them down to earth, or reinforce the reality. Kids can gain a great deal from an imaginary relationship with an absent parent. Imagining Daddy saying goodnight every night and blowing a kiss and having the child catch it, is a great way of reinforcing the child feeling loved.

Daddy may not be exhibiting loving behavior at the moment, but inside us all is a loving being and that is what we want our kids to focus on. We all carry a lot of junk that gets in the way of us behaving the way we would really like. And if a parent is in pain then they are not connecting with their own loving source.

You can role play their situation using teddys or toys, and ask the kids what happens next, or have little teddy be sad, then big teddy gives him a cuddle and he's all better now, or goes out to play with the ball, then he is not feeling sad any more.

It is important to validate how they feel, there is nothing wrong with feeling sad or angry. Kids need to have their feelings, and can usually move on pretty quickly. It is the parents that tend to hang onto the hurts and disappointments, running the story over and over and reinforcing it all.

Your grandchildren have an opportunity to get away from the whole issue with you too, they can come and play and have fun, make cookies or potter in the garden without having a grumpy tired Mom, so make sure you create lots of fun opportunities for them.

Probably the best way you can support them all, is to offer Mom some time out, by taking the kids, and create some fun for them. Find out what your daughter wants in the way of support, sometimes what we think is supportive, is seen as interfering, or rescuing.

Our kids have their own journey and we can't fix them up or have them parent the way we would like. We can just be available, send lots of love, and encourage them to find ways to heal, dream and love again.

Wishing you JOY,
Annie Desantis

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