Activities to help children cope with divorce
From the University of Missouri Extension ServiceClick here for website
The divorce process is a challenging life transition for both parents and children. Children often experience a variety of conflicting emotions during their parents' divorce. It is very important for parents to show understanding and support for their children. This guide provides ideas for many activities that parents can do to support their children and help them process their feelings, concerns, and frustrations about the divorce.
Anger, sadness, worry, relief, confusion, guilt, shame, loneliness, nervousness are common emotions that children experience when their parents get divorced. Many children find it difficult to put these feelings into words. Drawing emotional pictures can be an easier way for children to express how they really feel inside. This process helps children express themselves positively and helps parents learn how their children think and feel about divorce. After your child draws a picture, ask specific questions about the picture. Encourage him to explain what he drew and why. Be positive and supportive.
things to draw
how is the divorce
How is the divorce?
Draw pictures of different feelings like anger, sadness or loneliness.
Draw a picture of your family, including everyone you consider part of your family. Write each person's name next to their drawing.
Draw a picture of the houses you live in.
If a spirit could grant you one wish related to your family, what would it be? Make a drawing of your desire.
After a divorce, it is important for parents and children to keep the lines of communication open. Children often have many fears, worries and questions about divorce. If they feel comfortable talking to their parents about these issues, they may find it easier to adjust to the changes that divorce brings. However, children do not always know how to express their feelings or put their questions into words. Discuss the following questions with your children to help them discuss their feelings about the divorce. Good conversations can occur in many situations: at dinner, in the car, before bed or during a walk.
How has your life changed since the divorce?
Why do you think people get married?
Why do you think people get divorced?
How is a happy family?
Who are you talking to about the divorce?
What did the divorce bring?
What are you worried about?
How do you think your life will be in five years?
What good qualities does your father have? Your mother?
If you could change anything in your life, what would you do differently?
communicate from a distance
When a parent moves away, it often becomes more difficult for children to deal with the divorce because, in addition to the consequences of the divorce, they also have to adjust to not seeing their parent as often. The following tips can help parents and children maintain strong long-distance relationships.
Email each other. Email is a quick and convenient way to stay in touch.
Start a postcard club. Everyone likes to receive mail! Completing a postcard takes just a few minutes. Give your child stamped cards and take turns sending a card each week.
You have weekly or monthly phone appointments. Set a specific time to make calls (for example, Wednesday night at 7 pm or every first Sunday of the month at 12 pm). It gives you both something to look forward to!
Create a shared journal. Buy an inexpensive notebook and write down your thoughts and feelings. Swap notebooks when they meet.
Create a family site. This is a great way to share information and images with each other.
Make recordings on audio or video cassettes. Hearing and seeing each other, whether on special occasions or simply during daily activities, will keep the bond between you strong.
to write letters
Writing letters is a constructive way to deal with and get rid of mixed feelings. Encourage your child to write a letter to one or both parents expressing their feelings about the divorce. Tell him he can write whatever he wants. Assure him that he doesn't have to post the letters if he doesn't want to. The act of putting feelings and ideas on paper often helps to put the situation in perspective.
Information cards for parents
Create information cards for yourself, your child, and the other parent. Write information about yourself on one side of a large index card and information about your child's other parent on the other side. With this card, you, your child and your child's other parent will always know how to communicate.
Items to Include
Addresses (home and work)
Phone numbers (home and work)
days I live with this father
Things we like to do together
the power of stories
read children's books
Many children's books deal with the subject of divorce. Reading books like this one with your child can be a valuable way to help them process the feelings and concerns they are experiencing about divorce in their own lives. Children often identify with characters in books. Talking about how the characters overcome their challenges can give your child insight into their own situation. For a list of recommended books, see the MU Extension GH6600 Guide, Helping Children Understand Divorce.
Many children write and illustrate stories. If your child enjoys this type of activity, suggest writing a story about the divorce. Encourage your child to be as creative as possible and draw pictures that illustrate the story. When your child is ready, ask him to tell his story. Be positive and support their work.
Personal history timeline
A common feeling that children experience after divorce is worry about the future. They may worry about what will happen to them and whether their life will ever go back to normal. Creating a timeline can help children put current events in their lives into perspective. It can help them to see that they had a lot of good in the past and that they have many years ahead of them to enjoy themselves and have fun with their families. Younger children will need help with this activity, but will enjoy thinking of events for parents to mark on the timeline. Discuss your child's schedule with them when finished. Point out that you have experienced many different events in your life, some good and some bad. Help him understand that he can get through the difficult time of divorce and that happy and beautiful times are ahead.
Instructions for a personal history timeline
Draw a long horizontal line on a piece of paper.
Label your birth with a star at one end.
Write the present tense somewhere in the middle.
Mark important events that happened in your life between the "Christmas" star and the "Gift" sign. Possible ideas include the birth of a sibling, pets, starting school, moving house, learning to read, learning to ride a bike, divorce, remarriage, joining a team or club, death of a relative, and holidays and special holidays.
Mark events that you expect to happen in the future.
Like painting, playing is often a great way to help children express their feelings when it's difficult to talk about them. Below are some ideas for effective game activities:
Create finger puppets or brown paper bag puppets. Let the dolls talk about their feelings.
Sometimes, when people are busy with something else, it's easier to talk about feelings than it is to just sit and talk. There are even some games on the market that deal specifically with the topic of divorce.
role playing game
Practice dealing with difficult situations that arise during a divorce by acting out scenarios and discussing how these situations can be handled positively.
Participating in physical activities together helps parents and children spend more time together and reap the health benefits of exercise!
Exercise is a great way to release tension or angry feelings in a positive way.
Good activities for parents and children to have fun together
go ride a bike
loosen the pipe
Creating two comfortable homes
You want your child to feel comfortable with you and your ex-spouse. Make sure each house includes familiar items so your child feels safe and at home in both places. If possible, work with your child's other parent and include the following in both households:
favorite toys and games
Basic school supplies (paper, pens, scissors, etc.)
Clothing (underwear, socks, pajamas, jeans, etc.)
Toiletries (toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant, etc.)
Photos of all family members.
Making a time capsule is another way to help children realize that the uneasy feelings surrounding divorce won't last forever and that there's a lot to look forward to in the future. Let your child put things that represent their life in the capsule: stories, drawings, photos and other treasures and special memorabilia. Encourage your child to answer the following questions and include them in the time capsule:
Questions about the time capsule
Who are your friends?
Who's in your family now?
Who will be part of your family in the future?
Where will you live in a year? 5 years?
What would you like to do?
What would you like to learn in the future?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
There are many different types of containers that make good time capsules: large mason jars with tight-fitting lids, large manila envelopes, shoeboxes, or drawstring bags. After your child finishes the time capsule, help him seal it. Let her decide when to open it. For example, it could open in a year, on a specific anniversary, or five years after the divorce. When it's time to open the capsule, your child will surely enjoy looking at the things he's put inside, noticing how the handwriting has changed and reading what he's written.
Divorce is a difficult transition for children and parents alike. All family members have to deal with a variety of emotions and make lifestyle changes. However, despite their own difficulties in the divorce process, parents still have a duty to give their children love, care, and a sense of stability. Relationship-building activities like those discussed in this guide can help parents connect with their children and better understand their children's feelings and concerns. With time, patience, and creativity, children and parents can successfully navigate the ramifications of divorce together.
janet a. clear
State Specialist Assistant
Bonkowski, S. (1987). Children are not divorceable: a workbook for divorced parents and their children. Chicago: ACTA Publications.
Brett, D. (1988). Annie's Stories: A special kind of storytelling. New York: Workman Publishing.
Davenport MA, Gordy PL. and Miranda, N.A. (1993). children of divorce. Milwaukee, WI: Families International, Inc.
Garigan, E. and Urbanski, M. (1991). Living with Divorce: Activities to Help Children Deal with Difficult Situations. Carthage, IL: Good Apple.
Hickey, E & Dalton, E (1994). Healing Hearts: Helping Children and Adults Recover from Divorce. Carson City, NV: Gold Leaf Press.
Margolin, S. (1996). Comprehensive group counseling program for children of divorced couples. West Nyack, NY: Center for Applied Educational Research.