Families: From Nuclear to Single-Parent

Families: From Nuclear to Single-Parent

Separation          (Image by Pensiero via Flickr)

      Remember when the only time we heard about split families was in the fairy tales of old? You know, the ones fraught with tales of evil step-mothers or orphaned children? Any other mention of a split family was done quietly, or at least it was when my parents first separated back in 1979. I recall there being less kids from single-parent families and I remember the awkwardness I felt when kids would ask the usual getting-to-know-you questions. Fortunately, the stigmatization surrounding divorce so common during my own childhood has lessened. It’s not uncommon to come from a split home these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s less uncomfortable for the child who has to do the back-and-forth dance from parent to parent. The cold fact is, divorce and separation are difficult, no matter how you cut it.
      For kids, divorce is many things: it’s confusing, it’s depressing, it’s stressful, and for many, there’s a belief that they had something to do with it. Kids need reassurance that they are not at fault, and they need to be provided a sense of stability amidst the turmoil of divorce. Truthfully, it’s up to the parents to create that, and it may require setting aside the personal difficulties with your soon-to-be ex-spouse in order to do so.
Some things you can do are:

  • Make sure your kids have regular routines. This helps create stability.
  • Try to maintain a working relationship with the other parent–Watching parents in conflict inevitably creates stress.
  • Talk to your kids. Not doing can open the door for a slew of other issues, i.e., drugs and alcohol. (There are big feelings to manage, and if a child doesn’t feel heard at home, they will go elsewhere!)
  • Tell the truth.
  • Say “I love you” — it means more than you realize.
  • Talk about what changes they can expect.
  • Avoid blaming and show restraint- keep it simple, pointing fingers just creates drama.
  • Plan your conversations before you have them. 
  • Get help if/when you need it. You don’t have to do this alone. 
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