Close to half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. Often, the effects of the divorce are felt more by the children than by their parents. Children may feel that they are to blame for the divorce. One way to help them cope with their feelings is through divorce activities with children's groups.
Guilt, confusion, worry, relief, anger and sadness are all feelings children may experience in a divorce. Children of divorcing parents may initially have trouble communicating these feelings. Drawing pictures is an outlet to display their feelings. They not only express themselves in the pictures but can also give a parent or counselor a look at how they are feeling. Once the children finish their creations, you can ask questions about the pictures. Kids can also share their pictures with the group and ask questions about others pictures--although the children should not have to answer questions from other children if they are uncomfortable.
Find Common Ground
To help children get to know each other, put a number of partial sentences on slips of paper in a bag. Then have the children pick a slip of paper and complete the sentence. For example, you may create a slip that says, “My favorite thing to do is _” or “The place I most want to visit is _____.” When a student pulls it out of the bag and answers it, ask the rest of the group for their answers. It is a nice idea to create partial sentences that will get the children to talk about the affect of their parent's divorces. Another activity you can use to help them find common ground is to put a set of statements into a bag. You can use statements like, “I share a bedroom with a brother or sister,” “I stay with my mom” or “My favorite food is pizza.” Have the children line up on one side and then read the first statement. Whoever agrees can take a giant step forward until they all reach the other side.
Children can make, draw or bring dolls to represent the make-up of their families and who they live with. Have each child introduce her family, and then allow the other kids to ask questions (although the children should not have to answer if they are not comfortable). You can also make pillows out of an old sheet. The kids can use the pillows to sleep on, grab when they are mad or cuddle with. Cut rectangles that are twice as long as they are wide out of the sheet. Make a 1/2-in. edge around the outside by folding the cloth over and ironing it flat. Fold the cloth in half, put a piece of cardboard between and have the kids draw a design. Depending on the age of the kids, you can either stitch the two sides shut or have them stitch two sides shut. Fill the pillow with polyester fluff, and then stitch the other two sides shut.
It is important for children to talk about their feelings during and after a divorce. Draw or print up a poster with different faces labeled with a specific feeling. Point to a face and feeling, and ask the kids what situation leads to that feeling. You can also write different feelings on pieces of paper and put them in a paper bag. The children can draw them out and then act out the feeling for the other kids to guess.
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