The stress of a divorce can really take a toll on children and teens; change of appetite, lack of sleep, acting out: these are a few common signs of stress and anxiety in our children.
What can we do to make sure we are handling these problems in an effective and positive way?
Whether to address a change of appetite in our child can be very tricky. With America’s toxic diet culture, obsession with the scale, and “before and after” photos taking over social media—it’s hard to remember that bringing attention to weight or body image can be very damaging.
Registered dietitian Emily Reilly, whose expertise includes disordered eating, says, “Rather than focusing or commenting on the food directly, try asking your child about how he/she is feeling. Because the change in appetite is likely a reflection of how the child is managing his/her emotions, allowing space to talk about feelings addresses the core issue rather than an observed ‘symptom’ of the problem. It also sends a message to the child that his/her emotions are important and that it's
okay to talk about them. It's also important to not identify foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ as this type of food judgement can lead to self-judgement and shame. Remember, whether the child is eating more or less than usual, food is not the main issue.”
What should we do, as parents, if lack of sleep, acting out, and other forms of anxiety are being shown?
“One of the best things a parent can do for their children during a divorce is to keep the lines of communication open,” explains Doria Miller, LCSW. “Checking in regularly and making it clear that they can come to you with whatever they may be feeling is crucial. It’s also important not to fall into the trap of assuming you know how they feel. If you assume that they don’t want to talk, or assume that they’re ok, that won’t leave space for you to continue to see how their feelings change
throughout the process. More than anything, they just want to know that they are loved and that they will still be able to have relationships with both of their parents.”
No matter how our children may be displaying or hiding their emotions, communication is a good place to start when it comes to protecting our children’s mental health.
But remember—in order to take care of our kids, we must take care of ourselves.
At Davis and Davis we have been representing clients for domestic issues, including divorce and custody, since 1976, and we are only a phone call away!
For information on professional therapy click here.
Doria Miller, LCSW
Emily Reilly, RD