How to Help Kids Cope with the Stress and Anxiety of their Parents’ Divorce.
And How Kids Can Help Their Parents Too!
I was three the first time my parents told me they were getting divorced. It wasn’t the last time for either of them. I was young so it wasn’t discussed with me at any length. We also didn’t talk about how their divorce would affect me. It was more of an announcement followed by some months of my mother crying or slamming a door unexpectedly and without explanation.
I don’t remember being told that it wasn’t my fault. Or that they both still loved me just as much as before, even if they no longer loved each other the same way. Or any of the other things that people do now when they get divorced. Maybe it was because I was so young. Or maybe my parents were overwhelmed with their own first experience of the divorce. Neither of them knew divorce from a child’s point of view. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t make much of a difference to me.
In case you’re wondering, it did. Of course, it did. Everything we know about divorce says that it hugely affects the children involved. In cases of domestic violence and abuse, divorce can be the best thing that can happen for a child. But for most kids, going from a family that consists of Mom, Dad, Sister and me, to one that involves Mom, Step Dad, Dad, Step Mom, and a handful of step and half brothers and sisters, can cause more than a little uncertainty and anxiety. Especially when the people you were told were your new mother and new brother and sister, suddenly no longer have any relation to you because of another divorce.
Luckily now many families try to go through more of a conscious uncoupling process to make things easier on the kids. But even so, a lot of kids could use a little help learning healthy ways to manage their emotions while going through a divorce. No one knows this more than Tejal Patel. Tejal was a divorce lawyer who, after a number of years of doing her job, realized that her own levels of stress and anxiety were spiking as she became involved with her clients lives and the lives of their children. So Tejal started teaching children yoga and meditation on the side. But she soon realized that while she could plant the seed of mindfulness in the children, working with their moms had a lot more impact. This work allowed her to help both the mothers and their children develop meditation and mindful practices that gave them the tools to navigate the stress and anxiety of both divorce and life afterwards.
Today Tejal Patel is no longer a divorce lawyer and has dedicated her life to helping mothers and children from all kinds of families (not just those going through divorce) to infuse their lives with moments of mindful reset and to give them the tools to handle stress and difficult emotions in the healthiest possible way.
How have I seen this show up in my own life? One of the best examples of how this works came up recently when I was having a tense day and my 7-year-old came over to me, took my hand in her small, warm hand, and she started touching my thumb to my first finger, then my second, then my third and reminded me to do my presence chant of Sa-Ta-Na-Ma along with the finger motions. And you know what? She was right! Both the practice and her sweet, gentle reminder of it, made the tension and stress I was bogged down by, totally evaporate. I love it that my kids are learning, not only how to handle their own stress and difficult emotions, they are even aware enough to reach out and help me when they can see I need it too.