Shift #6: Kids are Shifters Too – Helping Your Children Thrive Post-Divorce
Being a parent adds an extra layer of emotional complexity to divorce. You have to grapple with your children’s feelings of pain, disappointment, and anger, even as you’re learning to deal with your own. You also probably carry a heavy load of guilt, wishing that you could have created the “traditional happy family” that you’d meant for them to have and that society seems to demand.
But your kids can still have a happy family–maybe even a happier one than before–after divorce. In a sense, divorce hits the reset button for your relationship with your kids. You can use the experience to strengthen your bonds with them and teach them about resilience.
This week, my guest, Deb Purdy, and I discuss how you can help your kids find positivity and thrive in their new post-divorce life.
Deb is a transformational coach, speaker, workshop leader who successfully changed her painful divorce experience to a positive one by using several internal shifts that helped her change her attitude towards her divorce. Thanks to these shifts, she designed the post-divorce life she wanted and created a collaborative and friendly relationship with her ex-husband. She is the author of the book, Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce.
Listen with Your Whole Heart
When you see your kids hurting or upset, it’s natural to want to take their pain away or make it better somehow. So, we tend to say things such as “Don’t cry” or “It’s not that bad.” Or we might try to distract them with a new purchase or a delicious meal. Although we mean well, our kids may feel that we’re minimizing or dismissing their feelings–and they’ll have a point.
Deb Purdy says that listening to your child with an open heart is instrumental in helping them heal after divorce. Let them express their feelings and wishes without trying to solve the problem, explain yourself, or lecture them. It might be painful for you to witness their sorrow, but they will ultimately appreciate that you gave them an outlet for their feelings and tighten your bond with them.
Give Them Some Control
One of the most challenging aspects of divorce for kids is that they have no control over what’s happening. The world as they know it is breaking apart, and they can’t do anything about it. This frustrating feeling can leave them feeling angry and insecure and may cause them to lash out.
You can help them shift these feelings to more positive ones by giving them co-control in designing their new normal whenever possible. For example, when Deb divorced and had to downsize their home, she and her daughters were very sad about moving. To help them feel more in control, she took her daughters to look at potential homes. She also let her oldest daughter pick out the paint color for her room and decide where she wanted to place her furniture and posters. When it was time to say goodbye to their old house, they lit candles and walked through the house, saying thank you to each room, and then each said a blessing for the new family moving in.
You can also co-create new rituals and traditions that your children will enjoy and help them look forward to their new lives. Deb’s client Brad helped his children adjust to their new life of seeing their dad only a few times a week instead of every day by mutually creating a Friday night ritual of ordering their favorite take-out and playing card games together.
The most crucial element of helping your kids shift to their new reality is your own attitude toward the divorce and ability to shift to a mentality of empowerment. As Deb says, “the better you do, the better they’ll do.”
So, work on cultivating your own happiness and well-being post-divorce, and create a positive new normal for yourself and them. Use the divorce to teach your kids the valuable lesson that even when you stumble in life, you can find ways to get back up with grace.
Read the rest of our series: “Rewriting Your Post-Divorce Storyline”:
- Use Your Divorce For Positive Transformation
- Shift #1: Culture Shift – Transform Your Relationship to Divorce
- Shift #2: Intention Shift – Decide How You Will Be in Divorce
- Shift #3: Story Shift – Change Your Divorce Story
- Shift #4: Shift on Your Ex – Find Peace in Your Relationship
- Shift #5: Shift the Conversation – Help Loved Ones to Support You in Divorce
- Shift #7: Shift On – Enjoy Your Life Do-Over After Divorce