Divorce can be difficult for all involved, but there are ways to help your children cope. Offering comfort, reassurance, and support can help ease the transition. Be open and honest with your children about what is going on in their lives, even if it is difficult or scary for you.
What to do When Your Child is Coping with Divorce?
Divorce is not easy for children. When children are free to love their parents without conflict of loyalty, they can get on with the business of growing up. Isolina Ricci helps give children coping strategies so they can move through this challenging time of transition. She offers sound advice and tips for divorcing parents to help ease the stress on their children.
Divorce changes everything. But you do not have to let it change who you are or how much time and energy you spend as a parent, especially when it comes to caring for your kids. Using these tips on minimizing the negative effects of divorce on kids can help ensure that your children’s lives stay as stable as possible.
- Children should not be burdened with adult concerns. Keep your child-rearing private and discuss problems or worries with your spouse or a professional.
- It is never easy when a family is going through a divorce, but some organizations can help. The San Francisco-based nonprofit Kids’ Turn offers workshops for kids and parents about how to deal with this stressful time.
- Stay as much as possible to your family routines and community ties. If you are worried about doing this, find a therapist in your community who works with parents of children with autism and make an appointment. Talk about any concerns you might have about your child, or about how well he is adjusting to his new environment.
- Divorce can be a stressful time for kids, but it does not mean you have to change your parenting style. Parents often feel guilty that their kids must cope with the stress of divorce but showering them with special gifts or letting them stay up late is not going to make them feel any better about the situation. They will feel more secure when their parents are firm and consistent.
- Encourage your child to call the other parent when they have news. Encourage them to tell both parents about school events and other activities.
- Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a child can go through. If a child is having trouble coping with divorce, he or she may show regressive behavior like excessive clinginess or bedwetting, become angry, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed, or have problems in school. A therapist can provide your child with a safe place to express their feelings without judgment.
- Reaching a point where you and your ex can communicate without being hostile is key to helping your kids develop a sense of security and stability around the home front. A professional mediator or family therapist will help both of you figure out new ways to communicate that are less likely to cause emotional distress for your children.’
- Do not interrogate your child about what happened in the other parent’s house or ask your child to relay messages from the other parent. It is not necessary for you to know what goes on with the other parent daily and asking questions may make your child feel uncomfortable.
The co-parenting years may be the most challenging of your life. But if you and your ex can learn to get along, you will give your child the gift of adaptability and security.
Effects of Divorce on Children Can be Stressful
Divorce can be an extremely stressful process for both parents and children. It is normal for children to feel anxious and insecure when their family is undergoing changes. Parents often act differently after the divorce, which may leave them feeling confused. The most important thing you can do is continue to be supportive of your child during this time and provide reassurance that they are still loved and valued.
Divorce can be devastating to children, but it does not have to be the end of the world. As pediatric psychologist Elizabeth Ozer at the University of California, San Francisco says, “the divorce of parents is a major life event, and it is something a child will be coping with well into adulthood.”
After divorce, children show distress that declines over time. Children who can maintain close ties with both parents typically adjust better than those whose contact is limited by conflict or relocation. Acceptance of the break-up by parents and the ability to talk about it with them lessens children’s distress and helps them cope more effectively with a major family change.
Children need parents who can work together to provide a safe and secure environment. If you and your ex-partner have trouble getting along, use these two guideposts as you begin to set up separate lives. Consider seeking help from a family therapist if hostility or resentment is keeping the two of you from working for what is best for your child.
Creating new families after divorce is an ongoing process, but a positive one. When parents are willing to set aside their own needs and focus instead on what is best for their children, they can create new nurturing environments in which those children will thrive.
Keep the Conversations to Help Kids Cope with Divorce
Children tend to be especially hurt by divorce. In fact, kids who live through parental separation are more likely to feel depressed and have low self-esteem than their peers who do not experience a breakup at home. That is why it is so important that parents talk openly with their children about the upcoming divorce and continue this conversation into the period of transition when you no longer live together.
As your family changes and you begin to parent separately from your ex, it is important to reassure your child that everything will be okay. Even little kids can understand the basic idea that their parents are going to live apart, and they might have questions about what that means for them. It helps to talk about these changes ahead of time with your child before they happen.
Here are the Guidelines for Talking with Kids About Divorce
- It is best to have both parents present to discuss the issue, so try and encourage them to come in together.
- Timing is key. Pick a relaxed time of day when there are no impending commitments. In general, the best time slot for getting a great workout is earlier in the day, before your energy levels drop with the sun.
- Use simple language, and do not talk on and on. For example, You’re old enough now to understand what is happening between your father and me. Your Dad and I still care about each other, but we want different things in life. We both want what is best for you, though.
- You may feel sad or angry when your child must leave. Take a moment to acknowledge that it is a sad situation and that your child is likely to experience big, painful feelings. It is okay if your child cries, becomes angry, or has other natural reactions. Remembering that it is normal for children to grieve over changes—even positive ones—can help you stay calm too.
- Even though you will both be spending more time with your kids, it is important to let them know that you also feel sad and that you will miss playing with them. At the same time, reassure them that you and their other parents love them, and talk about how much fun things will be when you visit each other every week.
- Your children might feel responsible for your divorce, so reassure them that it is not their fault. Let them know that no one is to blame and that both parents love them. It is important to keep contact between parents positive, even if they cannot agree on how to raise the kids.
- Give concrete details, it is a great opportunity for you to spend more time with mum and dad.
- You may not want to tell your children that your parents divorced because of infidelity, substance abuse, or any other adult problems. This is information they do not need; it lets them think that everything is fine at home and that the separation was due to “adult stuff”.
Keep in mind that your children may ask the same question repeatedly. This is a normal response to a traumatic event. Encourage them to ask questions and answer them as best you can. Let them know that you are there for them when they have more questions but try not to inundate them with too many details or information at once.
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