Rosalind Sedacca is a certified divorce coach who was the founder of the “Child-Centered Divorce Network”.
In a webcast presented by Chapter 2 Club, Rosalind sets out some of her coaching techniques and great suggestions for helping your children cope with divorce. As Sedacca reminds us, many authorities and studies have shown that it is the conflict of the divorcing parents rather than the divorce itself, which is the underlying cause of so many problems children of divorce face. Parents going through a divorce are often in a well of sadness themselves and don’t feel like they have the “band-width” to manage their children’s emotions, too. Some parents are so in the depth of their own feelings they don’t even realize their children are experiencing their own sadness and anger as a result of their parents’ divorce. Sadly, children do not have the maturity to handle those emotions and only have their parents to help them navigate through this life-changing time. Even if the divorce is not high-conflict, children need certain things from both parents, including being available for their children to share their feelings, accepting their feelings and providing structure and discipline at the very time they may feel unable to provide that.
Disciplining Your Child During and After Your Divorce
Rosalind has many blogs and videos on her website, childcentereddivorce.com that are helpful to divorcing and divorced parents. In this blog, I want to highlight a webcast in which she explains, Why and How to Discipline Your Child Through Divorce. She says, “Parents Can Help Children Avoid ‘Incubating Bad Feelings’ that can turn into Bad Behavior.” Here are some of her suggestions and the reasons behind them:
- Discipline your children’s behavior while NOT limiting their feelings. She says children must not be forced to keep their feelings in or feel they are wrong for having those feelings. If they repress their feelings it will build resentment, she says, that can result in their having all sorts of issues, including acting out, and as an attorney, I (Camille) have seen children develop anxiety, depression and even physical symptoms that result from not being able to share their feelings and feel heard.
- Help your children be heard and accepted. Even if you don’t like what they are saying to you, allow them to have those feelings and express them. If they are able to express those feelings, they are much less likely to act against others.
- You don’t have to agree with them. They just need to know it’s ok for them to have those feelings, like being angry about the divorce and changing neighborhoods.
- Discipline should not be thought of as punishment but teaching them life lessons and how to make good choices. She says parents should keep discipline focused on the consequences of their children’s behavior.
End the Situation on a Positive Note
Ms. Sedacca adds that, too often, kids only hear their parents’ criticisms, and as parents, we can forget the importance of sending our children positive messages, too. She suggests that we:
- Try to catch your children doing something right and thank them for it–cleaning up their plate from dinner or picking up their clothes. She says too often kids hear, “No, No, No.” And they begin to feel they cannot do anything right. Catch them doing something right and thank them, praise them for doing that.
- Let them know it is ok to communicate what they are feeling and that what they are feeling is heard and not wrong.
- Remember that one way we show our children that we love them is to provide them structure and boundaries that will help them feel safe.
- Remind them that, “We are in this together,” that you are the parent and, while you are also experiencing sadness and other feelings, life is about change part of your job as a parent is to help them learn how to navigate change. Talk to them about resiliency in language that they will understand.
- Finally, tell them that you and their other parent (and their extended family) love them endlessly, that you are there for them, and that “It will all be ok.”