Divorce is a difficult process for all parties involved, and children are often caught in the crossfire. In this post, we offer tips for counselors on how to talk to children about divorce in a way that is sensitive, compassionate, and effective.
Divorce can be a traumatic event for children, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and powerless. As counselors, we play a critical role in helping children navigate the emotional and practical challenges of divorce. In this blog post, we'll delve deeper into the dos and don'ts of counseling children through divorce, drawing on the latest research and best practices in the field.
Create a safe and supportive environment: The first step in counseling children through divorce is to create a safe and supportive space where they can freely express their emotions and concerns. This could involve creating a cozy corner in your office with stuffed animals, games, or art supplies, or simply offering a warm smile and a listening ear.
Help children understand what's happening: Children often feel confused and unsure about the causes and consequences of divorce. As counselors, we can help them gain a clearer understanding of what's happening and why. This might involve using age-appropriate language and visual aids to explain the legal and emotional aspects of divorce or simply answering their questions honestly and directly.
Encourage active coping: Children who are going through a divorce may feel overwhelmed by emotions like sadness, anger, and fear. As counselors, we can help them develop active coping strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or mindfulness meditation. Encouraging children to express their emotions through creative activities like drawing or music can also be helpful.
Empower children to express their needs: Children may feel powerless in the face of divorce, but as counselors, we can help them develop a sense of agency and control over their lives. This means empowering them to express their needs and preferences in a respectful and assertive way, whether it's asking for more time with a parent or expressing their feelings about a custody arrangement.
Make judgments or assumptions: As counselors, it's important to maintain a neutral stance when working with children of divorce. Avoid making judgments or assumptions about the child's family situation, or taking sides in any disputes between family members.
Pressure children to take sides: Children of divorce may feel torn between their parents' conflicting needs and desires. As counselors, we must resist the urge to pressure them to take sides or choose one parent over the other. Instead, we can help them develop healthy communication skills and empathy for both parents.
Overwhelm children with information: While it's important to help children understand what's happening, we must also be careful not to overwhelm them with too much information at once. For younger children, it may be best to use simple language and visual aids, whereas older children may benefit from more detailed explanations.
Minimize or dismiss children's feelings: The emotional impact of divorce can be extremely difficult for children, and it's important to validate their feelings and emotions rather than dismiss or minimize them. Listening with empathy and offering supportive comments like "I hear that you're feeling sad" or "That sounds really hard" can go a long way in helping children feel heard and understood.
In conclusion, counseling children through divorce can be a challenging but rewarding experience for counselors. By creating a safe and supportive environment, helping children understand what's happening, encouraging active coping, and empowering children to express their needs, we can make a meaningful difference in their lives during this difficult time. By avoiding judgments, pressure, information overload, and dismissiveness, we can ensure that children feel heard, valued, and supported throughout the counseling process.
Alexia VanNoy is The Marketing Assistant at Mindsight, but when she's not taking care of her professional life, she loves to explore her creative side by acting in local plays in Somerset. She's also a dedicated gamer who will never pass up the chance to discuss the latest trends in the world of video games (her favorite is 'Red Dead Redemption 2'). When she has some free time on her hands, you'll find Alexia curled up with a copy of Twilight or cuddling with her furry family - Orb, and Murder Machine - her two beloved cats.
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