July 26, 2013

Helping Children Develop Resilience During Divorce

A parent once said to me that when she and her child would be separate from one another for the first time because the child would be going on vacation with dad without mom being present, she sensed her child’s uncertainty and felt her own sadness about this.

What she did was she gave her child a hug and a smile and said that this vacation will be a good opportunity to be with the other parent, and just different than before when the family vacationed together.  Not sad, not stressful, not scary, just different. The child in turn, went on vacation with a positive expectation, and did so.

This parent did a great job of modeling resilience for her child, and the child in turn moved from a state of uncertainty to having a more positive expectation about change and what it means to be a family with parents’ separate from one another.

When parents communicate in ways that positively support children in moving toward what is new and unknown, they are creating opportunities for their children to master change.  Developing resiliency is important for all children to develop so that they have the coping skills necessary to deal with life stress as children, and throughout their lifetime.

The time of divorce is a time of change and transition for the family, and uncertainty and stress is present.  Everyone in the family is going through this at the same time and are drawing on their internal abilities to handle the discomfort that they are experiencing.

As a Collaborative Child Specialist and a therapist, I often problem solve with parents about how they can support their children through change and transition.  We explore together how to phrase what is going on to the child, so the child can have their own emotions separate from the parent, as well as consider the changes that are happening with hopefulness and positive anticipation.  If a child appears worried or sad, I coach the parent to help their child find words to describe what might be going on, and explore ways to find a solution.

Parents are the first in line to create the kinds of communications that help build of resilience in their child, so that the child can become more skillful with dealing with, not only the change occurring in the family in the present, but difficult situations that occur in his or her day to day life going forward.

Stephanie TschidaABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Tschida

Stephanie Tschida, M.S., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Collaborative Divorce Neutral Child Specialist and Divorce Coach is in private practice in Woodbury Minnesota. She is committed to supporting her clients through the uncertainty of family change, so that they can experience a smooth transition, have a positive adjustment and strong family plan to carry them forward. Learn more about Stephanie's therapy practice and collaborative divorce work at: Learn more at www.sltschida.com

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