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Feb 26, 2024

Guiding Your Children Through Divorce

Children and Divorce

From a child’s perspective, divorce can create an overwhelming tidal wave of emotions, such as fear, bewilderment, anger, and dread about the future. Parents who are sensitive to the stress the decision to divorce places on their vulnerable children often look for information to help them deal with their children’s distress. It is important to figure out what to say and what not to say, to understand what children worry about and how to reassure them, and to develop a list of ways to help children survive divorce.

What to Say and What Not to Say When Talking to Your Children about Divorce

The first step is deciding how, when, and what to tell your children. Avoid delaying this task even though it may be painful. It’s usually better for the children to know about the decision immediately. This way, you control how the information is presented. And it sets the tone for your child’s response. If possible, tell each of your children about the divorce together. Parents know that children will be anxious and worried about what this situation means, although each child will have an individual response.

There is a reason for the divorce. Try to agree on an explanation in advance, remembering that too many details may confuse children.
Some things will stay the same, and others will change. Common questions children might ask are who will they live with, when will they see the other parent and family members such as grandparents, and where will they go to school.

Let your children know:

  • They didn’t cause the divorce.
  • Both of you still love and want them forever.
  • You’ll still be a family even though Mom and Dad won’t be married any longer.
  • You both will continue to take care of them.

What Do Children Worry About?

Recognize that even if you ask your children what they are worried about, they may be unable to verbalize their concerns. Here are some ‘worries’ that children typically have during divorce:

  • The parent who is leaving
  • That they will be forced to take sides by their parents, grandparents, or other family members
  • That they will have to choose one parent over the other
  • How family occasions such as birthdays and holidays will be celebrated
  • Disrupted routines.

Reassuring Your Children Through the Divorce Process

Guiding your children through the emotional landscape of a divorce requires sensitivity, honesty, and reassurance. Understanding and addressing your children’s concerns is paramount in helping them feel secure during this unsettling time. Here’s how you can offer reassurance effectively:

  1. Open and Honest Communication: The foundation of reassurance is open and honest communication. Once you understand your children’s anxieties, addressing these concerns is crucial. Whether they’re worried about where they’ll live, how they’ll maintain relationships with both parents or how family traditions will be upheld, your responses should be as truthful and clear as possible. This approach not only validates their feelings but also builds trust during a period of significant change.
  2. Timely Updates on Important Decisions: It’s important to keep your children informed about significant decisions that affect them, such as living arrangements, as soon as they are made. This transparency helps mitigate uncertainty and anxiety, allowing them to feel more in control and less fearful of the unknown.
  3. Inclusivity in Decision-Making: Express to your children that their feelings and opinions are valued in decision-making processes, especially those directly impacting them. This inclusivity fosters a sense of belonging and significance, reassuring them that they are an integral part of the family unit, regardless of the changes around them.
  4. Optimism for the Future: Finally, instill a sense of hope and optimism about the future. Reassure your children that despite the current challenges, things will get better, and a sense of normalcy will eventually be restored. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and support them unconditionally, reinforcing the idea that they can still have a happy, fulfilling life post-divorce.

By incorporating these strategies, you can help your children navigate the divorce with greater security and optimism. It’s about creating an environment where they feel seen, heard, and supported so they can emerge from this experience resilient and confident.

Moving Forward Together

As parents guide their children through the complexities of divorce, the focus should be on fostering open communication, providing reassurance about the future, and ensuring that children feel valued and heard. By addressing their concerns with honesty and empathy, parents can help their children adapt to change with resilience and confidence, laying the foundation for a positive path forward.