Q: I’m a single mum with two children. My ex-husband doesn’t have anything to do with our children, which is devastating to them. Whenever my 8-year-old daughter gets in trouble, she starts to say things like ‘I hate myself’ and ‘I’m worthless.’ I think this is due to her not having both parents involved in her life. How can I help her be more positive about herself?
A: Our hearts go out to you and your children as you face this difficult situation. Children react to divorce in different ways, depending on age and a variety of other factors that can affect their sense of self-worth.
Younger children may blame themselves for the divorce, in which case it’s important to reassure them that your struggles as a couple had absolutely nothing to do with them. Teens and young adults may actually feel relieved after the strife of the divorce has ended, and this, in turn, may cause them to beat themselves up for taking a positive view of a bad thing like divorce.
What can you do to help ease your daughter’s pain? First, encourage her to talk about what she’s feeling and why she thinks these feelings are popping up. Help her to see that, though life has changed dramatically, things won’t always feel as bad as they feel right now. Give her hope for the future, and do everything you can to maintain normalcy and routine in her life.
Also, reassure her that she has value to you, simply because “you are you.” And help her find other healthy adult mentors with whom she can be honest about her feelings. Alert teachers, school counsellors, or youth leaders to the situation.
Finally, we’d strongly encourage you and your children to seek a trained family therapist to help you weather this storm. Contact our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation with a counsellor, as well as a referral for ongoing care in your area.
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