Going through a divorce can be a period of profound upheaval for all involved, but particularly for children. Studies have shown that there can be significant impact on children of divorced parents, which can continue into adulthood. Staying together solely “for the children,” however, can be equally damaging.
Here are five pointers to reduce the impact of a separation on the children and ways to help your child cope with a parental split:
- Telling the children
If possible, talk to the children together, and emphasize that while you and your spouse have decided to separate, you are not separating from your roles as mom or dad. Make it clear that things are going to remain the same as much as possible, but don’t lie. Children need consistency and stability, but they also need the truth. Be ready to answer questions about where they will live, where they will go to school, will they be able to keep doing an extra-curricular activity or sport.
- Recognize your respective rolesRemember above all that you and your ex-spouse are the parents and they are the children. Do not use your child as a messenger or go-between. Do not complain about your ex to or in front of your children. Continue the rules and discipline that existed before the separation in both households as much as possible, so the children know what is expected of them.
- Recognize the conflict your child may feel
Your child will continue to love both parents, even though you no longer love your ex-spouse, and should not be made to feel like they need to choose a side. They should be comfortable going to spend time with the other parent on the sidelines at soccer, for instance, even though it is “your weekend.”
- Recognize the upheaval that will be present in your child’s life
Your children will continue to experience upheaval even after the divorce is final, and will welcome any effort you can make to minimize that upheaval. Make transitions as fuss-free as you can. Allow your child to bring a favorite toy or game to the other parent’s house if they ask. Recognize that kids often forget things, so you may have to run back to grab something. Seriously consider the benefit to your child of having both parent’s living close to one another before deciding to move.
- Offer support, and seek it out yourselfConsider finding a counselor for your children to help them work through the emotions they are experiencing. Validate their feelings of loss, even if they differ from yours. Talk to the children’s school so they can look for signs of distress in your child, and provide resources to both you and your child. Find a counselor, support group or circle of friends in order to vent your frustrations about your ex-spouse, so you can keep that away from the children.
Finally, children are more resilient than they appear, and will cope with a divorce if given the support, guidance, and reassurance they need to feel comfortable and stable.
This is not intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation. This article “Help Your Child Cope With A Parental Split Through Understanding and Support” appeared on HVParent.com on February 1, 2020.