Between 40% and 50% of marriages in the US end up in divorce, American Psychological Association. While a divorce will undoubtedly be stressful for the couple involved, it can be even more traumatic for the children who are forced to adjust, and without necessary coping skills. How a child reacts depends on many things including his age, the circumstances surrounding the divorce, and his own personality type.
While mediators can often assist the family in keeping things peaceful, it is of utmost importance that both parents make an effort to guide their children through this trying time. Parents can do this by helping children find coping mechanisms and distractions, such as taking & arranging photos or learning to play a musical instrument, that will make the transition to their new way of life significantly easier.
Art therapy can help children who are traumatized by divorce to express their feelings and fears in a healthy way. Being non-verbal and sensory-based, art benefits children who have difficulty in verbalizing their feelings. During a typical art therapy session, a child will be asked to draw, create, take photos of, or paint something that they can relate to. A therapist working with a child coping with a divorce may ask the child to illustrate their family in order to get a better idea of how the change in family set-up has affected him or her. Art therapy is not restrictive in any way and can involve anything from scribbling in pencil to photo collage. Apart from attending formal art therapy sessions, parents can also encourage their children to engage in arts and crafts at home which will relax them while also boosting their confidence and problem-solving skills.
Playing is a natural stress-reliever for children and can prove to be a very beneficial coping mechanism for one that is traumatized by the divorce of his parents. Spending time playing with friends, or alone, provides a child with a healthy outlet for his emotions. During formal play therapy, a professional mental health practitioner will spend time with a child in a designated playroom. The therapist will encourage the child to express his or her feelings with regards to pertinent life events while also carefully observing how the child interacts with various toys during free-play time.
Music has long been used as a therapeutic tool and has proven to have a positive effect on numerous parts of the brain including the areas responsible for sensation, cognition, and emotion. In a similar fashion to art therapy, music therapy provides children with a non-verbal outlet for their feelings. There are many ways in which music can be utilized to help children cope with their parents' divorce. Therapist-led music therapy consisting of singing, playing instruments, and listening to music can be of great benefit when it comes to encouraging a child to share his sentiments without him feeling forced to do so. Children can also be encouraged to listen to appropriate music at home or, alternatively, take up music or singing lessons, as a way to cope with the divorce.
No two children will react to trauma in the same manner which is why it is so important to seek out coping mechanisms that will be of most benefit to your own child. Divorce may not be preventable, but letting your child deal with the subsequent trauma on his own can certainly be avoided.
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