Help your child develop coping skills during divorce

Help your child develop critical coping skills during divorce

The New York Times recently published an article on how parents can help their child develop coping skills during their divorce.  The premise is not to excuse away negative emotions the child is experiencing, but rather work through their feelings.

The article interviews child psychologists about recent studies suggesting that helping your child process their emotions will develop their emotional maturity.  The author stresses that a parent immediately wants to make the source of the problem better, whether its a broken toy or hurt feelings.  However, delaying this instinct and helping your child cope will benefit the child as they grow into adulthood.

Good problem solvers

Children with good coping skills, or emotional intelligence, become good problem solvers.  When faced with an issue during visitation, at school, or in social settings, a child will use their skills to resolve the issues without having their parents step in on their behalf.

Often, my clients want to save their children any pain or disturbance a divorce or separation brings.  Your child will be angry at their situation, they will cry at exchanges, they will lash out, or they may talk negatively about their other parent.  These are all signs that a child needs help processing their emotions.

Four ways to help your child process their emotions

The article suggests implementing the following steps to help your child process their emotions.

Feel It. While it may seem obvious to feel emotions, many families focus on pushing away negative emotions. “When we’re saying ‘don’t be sad, don’t be angry, don’t be jealous, don’t be selfish,’ we’re not coming to the child in the reality of her emotion,” she said. “Validate and see your child as a sentient person who has her own emotional world.”

Show It. Similarly, many families have what Dr. David calls “display rules” around emotions — there are those it is acceptable to show, and those that must be hidden. “We see expressions like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘we don’t do anger here,’ or ‘brush it off,’” she said. “We do it with very good intentions, but we are teaching that emotions are to be feared.”

Label It. Labeling emotions, Children need to learn to recognize the different emotions.  They should be able to recognize stress verses anger or disappointment.  Labeling emotions develops empathy. Even a toddler can express an emotion.  As children age, their ability to label develops further.

Watch It Go. Even the hardest emotions don’t last forever. Dr. David suggests helping your child to notice that. “Sadness, anger, frustration — these things have value, but they also pass. They’re transient, and we are bigger than they are. Say, ‘This is what sadness feels like. This is what it feels like after it passes. This is what I did that helped it pass.’”

To find out more about how you can help your child develop critical coping skills during divorce, read the article here.

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