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A Secure, Safe Home Says I Love You

In many ways divorce is the norm in our society now.  It is often quoted on the news and in general discussion that more than 50% of marriages in Canada end in divorce.  The key to reducing stress and providing stability to a child when divorce happens is to focus on your attitude first.  A positive, reassuring attitude is what will carry the most weight in how you guide your child through the difficult days ahead.  Most parents feel unsure about how to proceed because it is new territory.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Kids need you to be there for them.  They need to know that they have your attention and that you love and value them and that will not change even if you don’t always live in the same house.  Children need structure and routine.  Nothing says I love you to a child like a secure safe home.  Children love both parents and that is the source of the internal conflict they feel when parents are not getting along.  They need to know that it is OK to still love Mom or Dad.  Bad mouthing the other parent in front of the child can have devastating consequences in how the child feels about himself.  “If Daddy is a useless piece of work, and I still love him, am I a bad person?”  That is the way a child sees the world because a child is egocentric. Reassure your child that he is loved by both parents and always will be.

A cardinal rule in helping your children through separation and divorce is to not expose them to arguments, especially loud aggressive interactions.  Current society has expanded the definition of violence beyond actual physical violence.  Screaming, threatening, and gesturing are all forms of violence in person and on the telephone.  Children who witness violence can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can have a profound effect on their development and their future well being. 

Remember that your child is just that…a child, and giving details about adult life is not appropriate.  Do not make your children your support system to get through your own difficult situation.  Assure your child that even though the family is undergoing some big changes, there are many things that will stay the same and perhaps get better.  Focus on family strengths and maintain family traditions.  Start new traditions that reflect the new circumstances.  For instance if the summer vacation trip to Disneyland is not on this year, go camping at a more local location that is a new experience. 

Families once sought to stay together for the sake of the children.  Now we accept that some couples need to separate and the best way to help children cope is to get along with each other for their sake.

Deborah Joyce is the Executive Director of District 69 Family Resource Association serving children, youth and families in Oceanside. Contact her at 250 752 6766.