Helping Children Cope With Divorce

Filing for divorce is a very emotional and stressful process, especially for children.  Additionally, the emotional needs of children are often forgotten or go unprioritized during this time.  It is important now more than ever to ensure that your children feel loved, wanted, and heard by both parents. Below are somethings to keep in mind to help your children process their feelings with the divorce, but also to help them maintain a sense of stability throughout the process.

  1. Do Not Talk Poorly About the Other Parent

At the end of the day, your child is half of you, and half of the other parent. Talking poorly about the other parent can cause your child to feel a sense of shame, which can lead to a lot of self-esteem issues. In addition, it also may prevent them from feeling comfortable speaking up or voicing their true inner thoughts.  The goal is to support and promote a meaningful relationship between you child and the other parent.

Do not let your frustrations of the divorce impair your child’s ability to view their other parent from a positive perspective.  It is important to keep in mind, that even though your spouse may not have made the best life partner, that doesn’t mean that they are not capable of making an amazing parent. Do not let your bias get the best of you and prevent your child from being able to benefit from that relationship.

  1. Be Patient and Open Minded with Your Child’s Feelings

Your child is going to be experiencing a lot of emotions.  This may be right away and sometimes it is later on down the road. It is important to be mindful of your words, body language and actions when it comes to discussing the divorce, and the other parent with your children. You want your children to feel comfortable coming to talk to you about their questions and concerns, and not fearing potential ridicule for their feelings.

However, it is also important to not be allusive or sugarcoat issues with your child. If they have questions, or are expressing confusion, explain things to them. You can keep it age appropriate, without sugarcoating facts or being allusive about issues. You want to encourage your children to ask questions or observe emotions and learn how to talk them through effectively.  Avoid making excuses for a parent’s behavior, and allow them to ask questions. Just be mindful to leave any bias or frustration you may have, out of the conversation. It is important to allow your child to talk out their own feelings and be able to feel heard.

  1. Be Flexible and Work Together with the Other Parent

When parenting plans begin to be made, everyone is going to experience a change in routine.  Be flexible and work together with the other parent in how to ease these transitions. If there are ways that you can help the other parent out during this time, do it. It is important to show your child the importance of parents working together.

In addition to showing your child that you and your former spouse are able to work together, it is important to show your child that you actually are working together. Children are very intuitive and will come up with ways to benefit from the divorce and ‘play’ each parent. Make it clear to your child that you and your former spouse are still a unified team when it comes to parenting, and that the child will still have to face the consequences from both parents.

  1. Make Timesharing Transitions as Normal Smooth as Possible

It can be really hard, especially for mothers to send their kids off to dad’s house.  This is especially true in the beginning, where mothers are responsible for the majority of the caretaking of the child. That is okay, it is normal. However, it is important to encourage your children to spend time with the other parent and ensure that they do not feel guilty about doing so.

On the same note, when your children come back from the other parent’s house, don’t feel like you have to interrogate them about their time, or be fear talking to them about their time at the other parent’s house, because you don’t want them to feel like you are interrogating them.  Figure out a way to come up with a happy medium. A good tip is to pretend like they just came back from grandma’s house, or a sleepover at their friends house, or maybe even sleepaway camp.  Be supportive and positive in your questions, without prying too much.

  1. Keep In Place The Routines That You Can

Remember that kids are having to cope with likely even more day-to-day changes than parents when it comes to divorce. They are going to be going back and forth between homes, experiencing different parenting styles, and overall, a different routine.  It is important in the beginning more than ever to get off to a good start and make the transition into divorce life as seamless as you can for the children and keep up whatever normal activities there were prior to filing. If both parents attended extracurriculars prior to divorce, try to keep that up. If one parent was responsible for back to school shopping or doctor’s appointments, keep that up. Do not feel the pressure to overanalyze the schedule.  Keep it simple when possible