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Important Ways to Emotionally Support Canadian Children Whose Parents are Separating

During separation, negative emotions can be difficult to overcome for everyone involved. In fact, many times, parents tend to focus on their own emotions because separation often occurs because of a break down in the marriage. However, studies have shown that children suffer from a wide range of emotional repercussions during separation.

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, separation, and later divorce, can lead to a number of negative outcomes` for Canadian children when it comes to their emotional, mental, psychosocial and physical well being. It is for this reason that Canadian parents should focus on emotionally supporting their children during separation…and this article explores the ways that you can support your children.

Emotionally Supporting Canadian Children while Discussing Separation

Before we launch into ways that you can support your children during the separation, it’s important to start at the beginning—the separation. Many parents struggle on whether to talk about the separation or how much to talk about the separation. In addition, the age of the children can make it confusing about what to tell them and what level will start to cause distress for the children.

The answer is complicated but regardless of what you tell your children, it is important to focus on their needs and emphasize that they are still loved. One of the many things that children feel during separation is parents leaving for good if they stop loving them. When telling your children about the separation, make sure you always focus on that fear and assure them that, no matter what, you will be there for them, even if you don’t live in the same house.

Other things that are recommended are:

  1. Make a plan before telling your children. It is important to discuss when to talk, what to say and also who will be doing the majority of talking.
  2. Avoid the blame game when telling your children. Even though emotions will be high at this point, you want to avoid blaming the other parent. Children need to be neutral in separation and should not be forced to choose sides or be resentful of one parent.
  3. Allow the children to talk. One of the first steps to supporting them emotionally is to let them talk…and you don’t have to come up with solutions. Sometimes, kids just want to have their concerns heard, they don’t want a solution so only offer solutions if they ask a direct question. Give them the space and time they need to process the news.
  4. Don’t get upset if children don’t react the way you expect. This doesn’t mean they don’t care but kids can focus on things that would seem strange to adults. They may be worried about where all their toys are going to stay or how they’ll have their bedtime stories if one parent always does it. This is their way of worrying about the separation, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
  5. Make sure they understand they are not to blame. Many kids take the blame for a separation, even if they are older and understand it better. It is important to tell kids that they are not the reason for the separation and that it is an adult problem that they did nothing to cause.

Once you have discussed the separation with your children, many parents begin the process of separation, which includes moving to separate homes. It is in this time that it is important to continue to meet the children’s emotional needs.

Emotionally Supporting Canadian Children During the Separation

Now that you have started the separation, it can be a bit more difficult to emotionally support your child through the separation; however, it is imperative that you do so. While it may not seem necessary, it is recommended that you seek emotional support for your child through a trained professional. In Canada, some mental health supports are covered under the national health plan. To find services near you, it is recommended that you reach out to your family physician for a referral. From there, your family can be connected to the Canadian Mental Health Association that will link your children to important child and youth mental health services.

Having someone to speak to, other than their parents, can be one of the best emotional supports that you provide for your children during the separation as it gives them their own safe space to work through any emotions they might be afraid to discuss with you or your ex-partner.

Other ways to emotionally support your children during separation are:

  1. Discuss visitation and living arrangements and how it will affect your children. Keep them informed on things as you both come to agreements. Kids don’t need to be asked what they’d prefer, unless they are older, but once you have discussed what visitations will look like and where kids will be living the majority of the time (or if you are splitting the time), let the kids know about it. The more they know about their routine, the more they will be able to cope with the emotions around the changes.
  2. Keep those routines similar. Along with letting kids know where they will be, make sure that you keep routines as consistent to the way they were before you separated. If you need to make some routines different, try to gradually ease into those routine changes. The more predictability children have, the easier the transition will be for them emotionally.
  3. Join support groups or organizations. If you can, find other families and children who spend their time between two homes. This can help normalize what is happening in your family and you can also get support and tips on co-parenting for yourself and your ex-partner.
  4. Give them access to their old world. This relates to friends, aunts, uncles, cousins and the like. It is very common for kids to lose extended family and friends when a separation occurs due to the change in housing or family dynamics. When it is possible, allow them access to the old world. Be sure to schedule access during family events so they can stay connected to your side of the family. In addition, if the kids had to move, try to find ways for them to connect with their old friends. Having these additional connections can help them avoid feeling isolated and alone.
  5. Keep your kids out of the battle. During separation, it can be easy to bring your kids into the battle by talking bad about the other parent, or using them to relay messages. This is very stressful for the children, forces them to chose sides and can increase their stress and does not provide any emotional support. Instead, keep conversations civil, don’t badmouth each other and communicate through a communication journal if you can’t have positive interactions.

As you can see, there are many ways that you can support your children during support, including Canadian supports through various Canadian organizations. By supporting them now, you can reduce the long term effects that can occur when children are not properly supported.

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