Helping kids deal with divorce
Divorce is something that affects many families, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy experience for anyone. Because divorce is about transition, stability is important: as children of all ages come to terms with the changes happening in their lives, they need warmth, love, support, and encouragement. Respect and open communication will also help make the transition easier, and will remind your children that they are still your number one priority.
- Tell Them the Right Way
The way children perceive a divorce can depend largely on how the news is broken to them, and this event can shape their outlook for years to come. Since every child is different and every situation unique, there is no single right way to tell your children that you and your spouse are divorcing. However, some basic advice that every parent should take into consideration includes:
- Have a family meeting and allow the children to ask questions
- Sit down with your partner beforehand to decide what you’re going to say
- Avoid blaming each other in front of the children
- Stay calm, cool, and collected
- Set aside a time for a follow-up meeting
- Don’t give your kids false hope: be clear that the divorce is permanent
- Be Reassuring
At a time when everything seems to be changing, children need to be reassured of many things. Most importantly during a divorce, they need to know that they are loved, that their needs will be cared for, and that they are not at fault for anything happening between you and your spouse.
Focus on all the things that will remain the same, and how someone will always be there in the morning, in the evenings, at bedtime, and at mealtimes. And while your words will reassure your children that everything will be all right, your actions will remind them that they are loved, that they still have a family, and that they aren’t to blame.
- Maintain Rituals and Routines
Another way to provide reassurance and security during this time of great change is by maintaining your family’s traditions and schedules. This can include things like bedtime story routines, Sunday dinner nights, weekday movie rituals, birthday celebration traditions, and even ordinary events like regular shopping trips together. Continue attending your children’s sports games, recitals, and meets as you always did.
- Cooperate and Communicate with Each Other
These are key elements for a family going through divorce. Cooperation and open communication are necessary between siblings, parents and children, parents, and other caregivers. Remember that this is a difficult time for everybody involved, and the more you communicate, the more you can help each other, and the more you help each other, the easier the process will be.
It’s also important that you don’t involve your children in parental disputes: don’t use them as messengers or to vent about their other parent. Instead, be civil and kind, and always make time to listen to your children about how they are feeling and what they’re thinking.
- Make Time Together Meaningful
Children who have two parents involved in their lives always fare better, and since you may have less time to spend together now, it’s important that you make the most of it. Engage with your children when you are together by asking questions, listening to what they have to say, participating in activities and hobbies that interest them, and staying apprised of what’s going on in their lives. If you cannot spend time together in person, take the time to write, email, call, and communicate in other ways.
If you follow these tips, you will be able to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, and that your kids continue to grow and develop, in a healthy, loving way. Seeking out a child psychologist who specializes in divorce and blended families can be of tremendous help to both you and your child during a divorce.