How Can Fathers Soften Feelings of Grief for Children After Divorce or Separation?
Children look to their parents for guidance and support during difficult times
As we head into the weekend, it might be handover time with your children from a former relationship or marriage. Breakups are a challenging process for both parents and children, and it can have a significant impact on children's emotional and mental health.
How parents respond to divorce or separation in front of their children can greatly influence the grief and sadness children feel from it. Taking responsibility for modelling appropriate behaviour and being civil towards your former partner during this challenging time can really help.
Understandably not all relationships or marriages end amicably and there are plenty of relationships where abuse or toxic behaviours have been the cause of the breakdown. This can lead to limited or no contact at all between parents which can also lead to increased stress and anxiety for the children if dealt with in unhealthy and unhelpful ways.
Children often look to their parents for guidance and support, especially during difficult times. If you are going through a divorce or have been through one, it is crucial to remain calm and composed in front of your children. If you become angry, upset, or engage in arguments, it can cause them to feel scared, anxious, and confused.
How to Soften Feelings of Grief for Children After Divorce
Explaining to a child that these feelings are normal at difficult times can help normalise how they may be feeling - and soften feelings of grief for children after divorce or separation. Children may even blame themselves for your separation or feel like they have to choose sides.
Children often feel like they cannot talk about how they are feeling towards either parent so creating a support network where the child can be emotionally honest without fear of repercussions from you can be very beneficial for the child.
Parents who are harmonious and cooperative during their divorce or separation can greatly reduce the negative impact it has on their children. Being civil towards your former partner helps children feel more secure and safe. It reassures them that even though their parents are no longer together, they will still be loved and cared for.
Being as emotionally open as possible with your children without creating blame or judgement can be a helpful approach. Approach every communication with honesty, gratitude and compassion with your children.
On the other hand, if you engage in acrimonious behaviour during or after a break-up, it can have long-lasting effects on children's future relationships and responses. Children who witness their parents fighting and arguing may develop negative attitudes towards relationships, struggle with trust issues, and have difficulty forming healthy relationships later in life.
If it feels like a struggle, start small. Normalise talking about emotional pains such as the feelings of sadness and loss that you are having on a daily basis and a longer term basis.
Prioritising your children's emotional and mental wellbeing by being respectful and considerate towards each other, avoiding arguments in front of your children, and finding healthy ways to communicate and resolve any disputes that may arise will only help your children to feel safe emotionally and also comfortable talking about difficult topics, feelings and emotions in the future.
Paul Butler is an Emotional Vulnerability Coach, working with students, teenagers and adults, helping them build sustainable mental wellness and learning the tools to be emotionally vulnerable, learning how to heal grieving hearts and lighten the weight that loss can have on us throughout life. You can find out more about Paul here.