Oct 12, 2011
Helping your kids cope with the effects of separation and divorce
For children, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain about what life will be like, or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up for good. Divorce isn’t easy, but as a parent you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children.
Helping your kids cope with your divorce means providing stability in your home and attending to your children’s physical and emotional needs with a reassuring, positive attitude. To make this happen, you’ll need to take care of yourself—and work as peacefully as possible with your ex. It won’t be a seamless process, but your children can move forward feeling confident in your unconditional love.
As a parent, it’s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your children the right support through your divorce or separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
There are many ways you can help your kids adjust to separation or divorce. Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. By providing routines kids can rely on, you remind children they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And if you can maintain a working relationship with your ex, you can help kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict. Such a transitional time can’t be without some measure of hardship, but you can powerfully reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority.
Support your children by helping them express emotions, and commit to truly listening to these feelings without getting defensive. Your next job is reassurance—assuaging fears, straightening misunderstandings, and showing your unconditional love. The bottom line: kids need to know that your divorce isn’t their fault.
Help kids express feelings
For kids, divorce can feel like loss: the loss of a parent, the loss of the life they know. You can help your children grieve and adjust to new circumstances by supporting their feelings.
• Listen. Encourage your child to share their feelings and really listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.
• Help them find words for their feelings. It’s normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.
• Let them be honest. Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. If they aren’t able to share it, they will have a harder time working through it.
• Acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings. You can also inspire trust by showing that you understand.