These games and activities are played across both household, and most are simple and not too time consuming. These back and forth exchanges help children feel a sense of comradely and cohesion between their caretakers, and so we strongly encourage parents to try these games, especially in the initial stages after divorce.
Boomerang Divorce Games & Activities
These games and activities are played across both households, and most are simple and not too time consuming. These back and forth exchanges help children feel a sense of comradely and cohesion between their caretakers, and so we strongly encourage parents to try these games, especially in the initial stages after a divorce.
Divorce Story-Telling Activities
There are several activities you can do with your kids to help them cope with divorce that revolve around storytelling. All of the techniques listed below are valuable because they allow parents to get an idea about what their child is thinking and feeling. Kids are often quicker to open up about their emotions when you provide them with a way to project these feelings onto someone else or express their thoughts through a fictional narrative.
Divorce Doll Play
Get your child some new dolls or caricatures to represent each member of the family: Mom, Dad, child and any siblings they may have. Barbie style dolls or small figurines work best, and you should try to find some with similar characteristics (such as hair color) to those in your family. Label each doll by writing the name of the family member on it. Next, get two medium-sized cardboard boxes. Cut out one side of each box and paint them so they resemble each parent’s home. Set the items out for your kids somewhere in the home. Giving kids props such as this that are specific to their situation encourages free play on the subject. This allows them to work through different issues and help make sense of the divorce through their play. Better yet, play with them. It should help you discover more about what they are thinking and feeling.
Divorce Play Boxes
On a similar note, you could each fill 2 paper bags with personal items of yours; clothing and accessories that belong to you but which you don’t really need, such as older hats, T-shirts, sunglasses, and so on. Throw in a similar colored wig if you can find one. Label them ‘Mommy Bag’ and ‘Daddy Bag.’ It will encourage your kids to role play each of you to process their feelings.
Divorce Flannel Play
The same can be done with flannel pieces or magnet pieces. Cut out and laminate pictures of different members of your family, along with any pets. Then create an assortment of houses, heart shapes, cars, flowers, trees, and other items. Have your kids role-play with the pieces or mix and match them to create comforting murals.
Homemade Gift Exchange
Do art projects or create other homemade gifts to give to the other parent while at mom or dad’s house. This activity is especially helpful for kids who struggle with the transition from one home to another and miss the other parent while they’re away. Engaging in hands-on art projects to create a special gift for the other parent can give them a much needed therapeutic activity. Not only can it keep them occupied, but it gives them something happy to think about while they’re separated, (their parent’s joy upon receiving the gift). If parents have the time, you can make this reciprocal, so that the parent creates a small nick-knack to give the child upon their return. They should be homemade or found gifts, however. You don’t want to start a habit of bribing children to go from house to house.
Divorce Caretaker Play Therapy Activity
Following our instructions for caretaker play, get your child a surrogate to carry around with them throughout the divorce. Explain that the animal needs someone to hug and love him because he never had a home, but DO NOT give them a story about divorce. (In this case it may have the unintended consequence of sending the message that children are sent away from their family after divorce.) Encourage them to talk to their surrogate and open up about their feelings, which can help young children cope with the divorce.
Notes to Mom & Dad
Hang a piece of paper on the fridge or carry it around with you in an easily accessible spot. Explain that it’s a note for the other parent, and have your child tell you when they want to write something down, whether it’s something special they did or just any old experience that they have at your house that they’d like the other parent to know about. This serves several purposes. First, it can help children who are struggling to adjust to the divorce better handle being separated from the other parent. Secondly, it’s nice for the other parent to know what goes on while they’re away, and provides a list of reminders that can get a child to open up and talk about all the things they might not otherwise remember. Finally, it can also double as a way for you and the other parent to communicate back and forth.
An item from Daddy
At each transition, give them a different item of yours to take with them to the other house: a tie, a shirt, or something else they normally wouldn’t tote around. This can serve several purposes. First, it acts as a comfort item. Secondly, because it’s something of yours, it can make them feel special that you’re allowing them to borrow it. Third, though it may seem silly and irrational, some young children may still worry about abandonment, in spite of all assurances to the contrary. By giving them something of yours to hold onto, it can offer reassurance that you are indeed corning back.
The Photo Album Activity for Kids of Divorce
Give kids their own photo album in which they can assemble some of their favorite family pictures. Have them fill the photo album half way up with things from the family’s past — favorite trips, family pictures of parents together, and so on. Then have kids create an artistic divider at the halfway point in the album. Leave the second half of the album blank, explaining that we’re saving these pages to fill up with wonderful new memories from our family under its new form after divorce.
This activity accomplishes a couple of things. First, it gives children possession of their own comfort item; something they can carry with them from house to house and draw solace from when they are feeling sad. When it’s late at night at Dad’s house and they’re in their room missing their mom, it will be soothing to be able to thumb through family picture. The process of assembling this album can also be therapeutic. It help children process what is happening and lets them get in touch with their feelings about what is going on.
But just as importantly, this project conveys a powerful symbolic message. It suggests that they still have plenty of good times lying ahead, and that their new family structure after divorce will be full of wonderful memories that they can fill an album with. This is an important idea that will help them cope with the many unpleasant changes that will be taking place in the near term.