The moment when one is informed about the impending divorce is a difficult one, whether it’s the other parent or a child. In its aftermath, most children experience a sense of crisis due to the major change in the family circumstances and relationships, as well as fears of the future. In many cases, these fears are coupled with various emotional and social difficulties.
Analysis of the child’s drawings, particularly at this critical stage, may provide insights into his inner world, and shed light on how he experiences the change. Note that divorce affects children in the same family differently, so that every child will require different parental approaches and reactions.
Diagnosing children’s drawings enables us to experience their feelings, frustrations and difficulties first hand. Equipped with this understanding, you will be able to reach out to each child and lead him across this bumpy road, in the way most suitable for him as an individual.
Accompanying the child closely during these difficult times, with a profound understanding of his needs and ability to meet them will enable you to help him through the divorce process in the best possible way.
This drawing reflects the first phase of coping with divorce – denial. This is a natural phase and in most cases, it also ends of its own accord. Denial is expressed in the girl’s drawing when she draws her family members holding hands and smiling, a scene that is far from representing the current marital situation.
At the end of the denial phase, some children develop feelings of guilt, as if they caused the separation. Afterwards, anger will be expressed against the parents because the children then feel abandoned. During this phase, drawings often become an outlet for aggression: they may crumple their drawings and throw them away, or draw family figures and then erase either of the parents.
After the anger phase, many of the children might experience despair, following their acknowledgment of the previously rejected reality. As a result, some will suffer difficulties in school or refuse to take part in social activities.
During this phase, it is critical to analyze the child’s drawings and detect the distress reflected in them. You will find further information about indicators of distress in our course. The last phase is acceptance: the child learns to adjust to the new situation and finds in himself the strength to look reality in the eye and accept it.
How to tell your children?
It is important that you adjust the length and language level of your explanation of the divorce process to the age of the child, no matter how old he is. You should present reality as it is, without trying to sugarcoat it. At the same time, you must emphasize that it is mom and dad who are separating from one another, not from him: “We are not divorcing you!”
During this phase, the child’s worldview is egocentric. From his point of view, he is the reason for everything that happens between her parents. Above all, explain that the divorce is not the child’s fault.
Find as many opportunities as you can to explain that it was your decision, not his, and that it has nothing to do with his behavior.
Point out to the child that he doesn’t have to take sides, since the divorce is not his concern in that sense: “Mom will always be your mother and dad will always be your father”.
Tell him how the relationship is going to look like from now on, and explain that it was a joint decision by both parents.
Children of these ages are able to grasp the concept of divorce. Explain to your child what you are going through and share your feelings about it as required.
Discuss the wisdom of sharing the news about the divorce with her friends, and how this should be done.
Your child may try to negotiate between you parents. It’s important to let her try to mediate, but on the other hand show her that the purpose of her mediation is not to get you both back together again.
Age 12 and beyond
Explain the divorce process directly and honestly.
Share the process that led to the decision to part, as appropriate to his character and questions.
Pay attention to how he takes the news about the divorce and whether he tries to avoid coping with it directly. In case he does, it is important to initiate conversations about it repeatedly, and see whether he needs your support.
The divorce process is painful and difficult for all involved – parents, children, and the wider social environment. Children’s drawings offer professional tools to cope with it. Analysis of the child’s drawings will give you more information about their mental status, identify difficulties, and assess their personality and how it affects their ability to cope with the divorce.
Professional in-depth diagnosis allows you to acquire tools and methods to respond to the child individually, according to each one’s personality and unique characters.
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