It is probably the most difficult task of a parent’s life; having to sit down with their child and tell them “mummy and daddy don’t love each other anymore, and we are going to get divorced.”
I remember the day I had to do it myself, and the reactions of my 2 small children, then aged 8 and 9 years old.
The dreadful D word sets in motion a chain of events and reactions that no parent can ever predict or truly foresee. During this early period of breakup, there are lots of proactive steps that parents can and should take to protect and nurture the emotional well being of their children.
Firstly they need to be able to put aside their own feelings as a separating couple, and ask themselves: what is it my child needs now at this most stressful time? The answer to that is simple: SECURITY. Separating parents need to collaborate to build a protective wall of physical and emotional security around their children. This is because when children hear the news for the first time, their childhood world of security upon which their psychological well being has been built, appears to be falling apart. A new reality has to be constructed again, and parents must demonstrate very quickly that children are going to be safe, loved and protected. This can go a long way to reassure the fear that children have at this time, that they might be abandoned.
The sequence of events that the decision to divorce sets in play, are life changing for children. Almost always, one parent leaves the family home and starts a new home. This then sets in motion what we call “the Two Homes Story ”. It is this sequence of events and the emotional reaction of children to them, that underlies the ideas behind “Kids and Divorce”. “K&D” is an interactive animation app that we at Familysteps have created for parents and kids who are negotiating their way through the emotionally complex process of family breakup and reorganization, triggered by divorce.
We have designed it very much with the emotional needs and wellbeing of children in mind, and to enjoy playing with one or both of their parents. Kids can get very emotionally “lost” at this time, and we wanted to give them a fun, animated self help game, that would enable them to enjoy making up the new story of their lives, and then be able show it to their parents, friends, teachers and other family members.
It starts with a game called Make My Family, where they can have great fun building animated avatars of everyone in the family including themselves. Each family member can have lots of different “Feeling Faces” so that emotions are built into the world of “K&D”. Creating this family portrait is great fun, and is central to the new life story children are going to make. We then give them a choice of a male or female Guide called Katy or Dan.
There are 6 further stages of storymaking to the app game; Worry Balloons, Sad Bear, Mr. Cross and Mr. Calm, My Two Homes, My Wish Tree and My Storybook. As children make the journey through “K&D” they take snapshot photos at anytime, to build up their own unique Storybook. This tells the unique narrative of their new life. K&D allows a child to explore and express feelings of anxiety, anger and sadness about the events of family breakup; but is also very focused on their new and future life in a positive upbeat way.
At Familysteps, our aim to is to help parents and children grow together in the circle of love we call family. It was born out of co-founder Simon Dermody’s own experience of divorce and also working as a child and family therapist. Our two apps Kids and Divorce and Make My family are both available on Appstore for ipad users, and Google Play for android tablet users. Contact us as www.familysteps.net. Or visit our website www.kidsanddivorce.co.uk.
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Danielle Jacobs says
This looks like a helpfull app to help children adjust while they are going through the turmoil of a divorce. Another helpfull resource for young children is reading childrens book ‘Nina Has Two Houses’ with them (available on Amazon). Reading the story of Nina, who is dealing with similar emotions and reactions while talking about it with the child can have a therapeutic effect on children. The book is written by a therapist and additionally contains important practical tips for parents.