Divorce is a major life adjustment, and many times children are deeply affected and may even carry the burden of the split as being their fault (even after constant reassurance by both parents). Below are a few tips that divorcing parents can use to help their children manage unfamiliar, and often times, scary feelings.
Children are going to be bombarded with tons of feelings, so it is advised that parents should encourage their children to speak about these feelings (both positive and negative). Divorcing parents need to put their own feelings on the back burner, and allow children to speak and feel freely.
Children should not be told to feel (or not to feel) a certain way. It is natural for children to feel very emotional during a divorce, and they should be provided a safe environment to express these feelings. Depending on the age and mental development, children many not be able to put their feeling into words. Watch out for behavior changes in your children, as they may display signs of depression, anger, and sadness. In addition, eating habits, as well as sleep patterns may be affected. It is for these reasons, that professional intervention may be necessary.
Another way to help your children adjust is to keep daily routines as stable as possible. Also, the relationship between you and your ex should be as civil as possible (especially in front of the children). Remember, children learn by observing, and having loud arguments in the presence of children is not setting the best relationship example.
In addition, be prepared to answer all their questions in a calm and clear manner. Some common questions children have when their parents are divorcing include (but certainly won’t be limited to):
- Where will I live?
- Where will I go to school?
- Will I still be able to see my current friends?
- Where will I spend the holidays?
- Can I still be involved in certain sports/activities?
Also, expect some rebellion and resistance, as children feel that their world has been turned upside down. The goal is to reduce stress for yourself and the entire family. Enlisting the support of relatives, friends, the local church community, and established organizations (such as Parents without Partners) can be helpful for everyone to get through this life changing experience, as easily as possible and to have a happy and healthy relationship post-divorce.