by Kristi Miller MS, LPC-MH Certified Theraplay Therapist
The season certainly shifted! Parents, you recently purchased coats, snow pants, gloves, and boots for children who a short time ago splashed in swimming pools and played in flip flops. SD weather brings a wide variety of seasonal changes. Preparing for subzero temperatures is what we South Dakotans do.
Busy families routinely follow their own school, work, and activity schedules. They usually follow already developed expectations about other members. However, sudden or gradual relationship shifts may break down resulting in the disillusion of the parental relationship. Significant family changes such as divorce/separation can leave a family feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, confused, and/or possibly relieved. The end result however is new experiences and significant change. An altered season in life.
Children encounter frequent changes. They generally navigate minor problems quite successfully with caregiver/family support. However some changes create significant life adjustments that can be challenging for them to understand and work through. Parental divorce/separation typically requires pronounced change and possible challenges. Children are generally vulnerable due to their immature development in communicating feelings, understanding novel experiences, and coping skill limitations. They often require trusted parents/adults to guide the process during challenging situations. Some children struggle significantly and others may not. Sibling reactions to stress often differ.
Research indicates that children experiencing divorce/separation tend to develop more securely and cope better if parents co-parent together effectively and positively. The parents continue to support and communicate respect regardless of personal feelings. This unified approach can be difficult or feel impossible. A therapist specializing in co-parenting counseling provides input and problem solving for both parties. Less conflict helps children adjust positively to a different normal.