Reflections & Insight

Helping Children Develop Resilience During Divorce

A mother recently told me about the time when she and her daughter were separated from one another for the first time after the divorce when the father was taking the child on vacation. Although she sensed her daughter’s apprehension and uncertainty about going on vacation without her mother, she turned this situation into an opportunity to teach her daughter resilience. This mother put aside her feelings of sadness and worry in order to support her daughter’s ability to learn healthy coping skills.

What she did was she gave her child a hug and a smile and said that this vacation will be a good opportunity to be with your father, and just different than before when the family vacationed together. Not sad, not stressful, not scary, just different. The daughter in turn, went on vacation with a positive expectation, and did so.

This mother did a great job of modeling resilience for her child, and the child in turn moved from a state of uncertainty to having a more positive expectation about change and what it means to be a family with parents’ separate from one another.

When parents communicate in ways that positively support children in moving toward what is new and unknown, they are creating opportunities for their children to master change. Developing resiliency is important for all children to develop so that they have the coping skills necessary to deal with life stressors as children, and throughout their lifetime.

Parents are the first in line to create the kinds of communications that help build resilience and confidence in children, so that children of divorce can become more skillful when dealing with not only the change occurring in the family in the present, but difficult situations that will occur in his or her day to day life going forward.

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