I was recently invited to speak at a Second Saturday Workshop, a free informational session for individuals in the process of separation and divorce. Attendees are in various stages from contemplating separation and divorce to already having filed and anywhere in between. The workshop is licensed and hosted by DYSNYD (Divorce Your Spouse Not Your Dollars ©) and each workshop features a presentation by a Certified Financial Planner, a Family Law Attorney and a Mental Health Professional.
I was so thankful for the opportunity to share resources and provide support and direction to individuals who are going through such a difficult emotional process. As I listened to the Certified Financial Planner and founder of DYSNYD, Bonnie Sewell, and the Family Law Attorney, Lindsay Jeffries Mohler of Atwill, Troxell & Leigh, P.C. of Leesburg share their knowledge and guidance, I began to feel my own stress levels begin to rise.
Decided to Divorce? What About You? What About the Kids?
As a licensed professional counselor and trained play therapist, I came to realize how I mostly deal with the emotional side of separation, divorce and adjustment to change in families. To hear the other professionals speak to the legal, financial and logistical processes was enlightening and overwhelming! I was even more inspired to provide guidance and resources to the participants on how important it is to take care of their own mental health and well-being as they endure the stressful, tumultuous and uncertain process of finding the "new normal."
I spoke to the effects divorce and separation can have on children and some best practices to employ when it comes to how to tell the kids, how a child's age and developmental level impacts their understanding and reactions, signs of internalizing negative emotions, how stress impacts a child's development and ability to learn, and how to protect their children from the negative impacts of divorce- and yes, it is possible!!
Your Child is Equal Parts You & Equal Parts Your Ex: Be Mindful
The most important thing to remember when talking to your children about divorce, or any change in the family for that matter, is to send the message that you (the adult) will handle the adult problems and they (the kids) will continue to be loved, cared for, attended to and nurtured as they always have been- by BOTH parents. The fights, arguments and ill feelings you may have towards your soon to be ex-spouse should not be witnessed or involve your children. As much as possible, keep the arguments to times when the kids are not present or, put the argument on hold until you can do it without them around. Your child feels that they are equal parts of mom and dad, so when you disparage your ex-spouse, you actually disparage your child. The long-term goal is for your child to have a healthy, positive relationship with each parent, so keep that in mind when dealing with the day to day decisions and interactions.
Learning to Have "Recovery Conversations" With Your Child
We are all human and it is impossible to keep everything hidden from our kids- we slip, we roll our eyes, we sigh, we say things we shouldn't in moments of anger and frustration. It happens, but when it does, you can have a conversation later on with your child about it and explain that in that moment, you were feeling angry or frustrated and that you are sorry that they had to see that. Model the behavior for your child that you would wish to see in them. Everyone has moments where they say or do something out of emotion, it's how you choose to handle that moment after the fact that will be remembered.
Do You Need Your Own Professional Support?
For individuals who are in any stage of the separation or divorce process and feel you could benefit from having the support of a therapist to help you process these difficult changes and emotions, if you are looking for help in how to tell your children, how to co-parent and how to protect your children, or if you are concerned about changes you are seeing in your child's behavior or the effect of the divorce/separation on them, please reach out to me today for a free consultation.
The experience of divorce is very difficult for families and couples, help is available to support you through each step of your journey. Believe in the possibility that life will be better and you will feel happy again.
About the Author:
Chelsey Brooks, LPC holds a Master's of Science in Professional School Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed School Counselor. In addition, she has taken numerous graduate courses in counseling, development, and family systems. She is currently pursuing certification as a Registered Play Therapist (RPT) and in Theraplay, an attachment focused, play based practice of Play Therapy. Chelsey has completed extensive training in Play Therapy, Trauma and other clinically focused continuing education and is in private practice in Ashburn, Virginia.
These blog entries are written by our very own clinicians. When inspiration hits, another entry will be logged.
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