How to Help Children Cope with Divorce

To ensure children’s happiness and reduce negative psychological consequences, parents must help their kids cope with divorce and make the process as painless as possible. Children can overcome negative effects of divorce and emerge from it confident and strong. They have remarkable healing abilities when they feel loved and supported with reassuring, positive parents.

-Deal with your own behavior first, to be able to help your children. Divorce is a traumatizing and difficult period for parents. Usually it’s the end result of many hurtful events, making the ability to deal with anger, disappointment, and other resentful emotions very difficult. Know this: the bigger the conflict between the parents and the longer it lasts, the more serious the negative impact on children. Understand that your child’s well being depends directly on your behavior and you won’t be able to help your child cope with divorce if you are overwhelmed with negative and harmful emotions. Set those emotions aside and make your child your top priority. Stay positive; use humor. It will help relieve stress and you will more easily leave anger, fear, resentment, and guilt behind you. Surround yourself with all the support you can from loving friends and family. If necessary, see a therapist who will help you deal with your own emotions. But at any cost avoid talking to your child about divorce as you would with a friend – seeking support and venting negative emotions. Remember that children are the ones who need your support. By being calm and in control of your feelings, you will be able to help them grieve less. Happy, healthy, and successful children are the best reward any parent hopes for.

-Parents must cooperate. No matter how difficult this seems, both parents must work together to reassure children divorce doesn’t mean parents will stop loving them or stop being there for them. Be diplomatic and avoid the blame game. Set all your differences aside and understand children love both parents equally, regardless of what you personally may feel about your spouse. When parents talk disrespectfully about each other, children feel pressure to take sides and betray one parent which creates strong emotional problems such as shame, quilt, anxiety, depression, or low selfesteem.

-Talk to your children. Kids benefit from open conversation but it’s important to know how to tell your child you are getting divorced. Both parents need to work together and plan ahead to tell their children about separation. Avoid doing it last minute. Know you are doing it for your children’s benefit. Try to agree with your spouse on the reasons for separations you presenting to your kids.  Be patient and ready to address hard questions and do so without disrespecting the other parent. Bear in mind your child’s age – younger children benefit more with simple, less detailed explanations while older kids need more information. Reassure children their world is not coming apart. Make sure children understand both parents will be there to help and support them through new changes such as moving to new home or school. Even if mom and dad don’t live together, they will continue to see, support, guide, and love their children.

-Explain divorce is not the children’s fault. Kids usually think it’s their fault parents are divorcing. They may have done something to disappoint mom and dad (bad grades, yelling, arguing, bad behavior) so parents stopped loving them and this is the reason why they are being abandoned. It is of utmost importance to reassure children divorce is not their fault. This is a constant process; children tend to be confused over the real reasons for separation and generally have difficulties understanding the world of grown-ups. Create an honest but child-friendly explanation and be patient. Repeat it with kindness and love as long as it takes for kids to understand it’s not their fault and you will love them and be there for them always no matter what.

-Listen to your children’s feelings and show them love. Every child will grieve their own. Pay attention to your child’s mood. Sometimes children can’t express verbally what they feel but do so by withdrawal, sadness, aggression, or anger. Encourage your child to trust you and seek support in you through conversation. Let him/her know it’s ok to be honest and tell you anything – you won’t respond with blame or resentment, but with love and support. Use your words and actions to reassure children about your unchanged love for them. If you notice your child’s behavior is worsening into aggression; anxiety; or depression, seek professional help and talk to a child psychologist.

-Provide stability and structure. Adjusting to new changes after divorce can be overwhelming for kids. Young as well as older children benefit from well established and organized daily routines. These don’t need to be rigid rules but a good daily structure with rules and rewards makes kids feel safe and more secure, knowing what to expect next. Many divorcing parents fail to discipline their children. Spoiling children during a grieving period is not productive and it’s actually a big step in wrong direction. It teaches them how to disrespect and manipulate parents.

With kindness; understanding; effort; and commitment, it’s possible to go through your separation focusing on positive points. Sometimes, not having to cope with each other, parents find more strength to be better parents after divorce.  Remember, children benefit the most from good relationships with both of their parents. Staying married is not crucial for successful parenting as long as you keep having healthy, involved, loving, and supporting relationship with your children.

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