One of the challenges of divorce is going without. Almost everyone goes through a monetary strain during divorce because running two households costs close to twice as much as running one (about 40% more). This translates into limiting expenditures and implementing new “no”s. Parents may be especially concerned about the kind of effect these “new no”s may have on their children. “No”s can trigger frustration, anger, feeling of unfairness and even stirrings of unworthiness.
Because of the loaded power of new limits, it’s important to anticipate what may come up for kids who, for example, learn they can’t do travel soccer this season or won’t be going to camp.
So the question arises: what actually makes children feel deprived? What can kids do without and what can’t they?
Things kids can’t go without are empathic parental contact and validation. Parents can practice this by “checking in” frequently with kids, inviting their children to express themselves while listening fully, with sensitivity.
Team work – providing a sense of belonging and safety
Parents can help children learn to make choices by engaging them in the decision-making process.
Is our annual trip to North Carolina important to everyone? If yes, could each of us come up with something we could give up or put off so that we can go this year?
By engaging kids, you’re not only providing parental attention, you are increasing their sense of being valued, respected and belonging to the familial unit. Feeling part of a supported system is crucial for all children, and can be particularly needed to offset the vulnerability children of divorce (or other transition or stress) may experience. A financial hit needn’t land squarely on the children. It is softened by their increased sense of being loved, being valued and belonging.
“The Power of Now”
Whenever in doubt, use the word “now” because part of what kids experience is a sense of limitlessness – if they’re not getting what they want, or if things are changing in a negative way, then it’s going to go on forever.
The beauty of tightening your belt is that eventually it’s going to get let out again. Nobody can hold their breath forever (except that story of the three Chinese brothers, but even that ended tragically). The idea that right now we need to make choices, and/or prioritize some things, is a helpful way to teach kids important lessons that will serve them well throughout their lives. A critical role of parenting is helping children contain disappointment and negative feelings, and develop an understand that difficult times won’t last forever. Working with your little ones in this way can help them form the inner structure, self-management and self-soothing skills that every life requires. These are the gifts amidst the challenges.
Children have a natural tendency to link external factors to their self image and self worth. A lot of affirmation may be needed to distinguish that your child is worthwhile and adored even though he isn’t getting everything he would like. Helping your child hold this dialectic is a wonderful way to help him begin embrace the vastness of the world – that seemingly contradictory things coexist. In particular, what you have and who you are is worth distinguishing.
Keeping the end in mind
Parents’ real objective is to help their children grow into well-adjusted adults. That doesn’t necessarily happen by giving your kids everything. It can happen by helping them tolerate sometimes not getting what they want.
Have you had to make some tough economic decisions for your family? Please share your stories using the “Leave a Reply” box below.