Helping Kids Cope with Divorce

kids-divorceMost parents sincerely want to do the best thing for their children during and after divorce. However, the intense emotions of divorce often distort a parent’s ability to make good decisions. When communication between divorcing parents is hostile and unproductive, parents may use their child as a go-between. An angry parent may be tempted to make disparaging remarks about the other parent in front of their child. Or a parent may feel guilty about the pain that divorce causes their child and try to over compensate by indulging the child, allowing and excusing misbehavior. The following suggestions may help parents to help their child cope with divorce.

  • Prepare your child for the impending divorce by telling him/her about your decision to divorce and the changes that will likely occur. Most children sense there is something wrong and they feel angry and confused. They don’t need to be burdened with the details. But they do deserve to know the truth about divorce.
  • Encourage your child to express his/her thoughts and feelings. Most likely he/she has some legitimate fears about how divorce will affect him/her.
  • Assure your child that you love him/her unconditionally. Reassure your child that he/she is not the cause of the divorce.
  • Understand that your child may not be willing to accept that his/her parents are divorcing. Many children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together for years after the divorce.
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  • Accept that divorce is extremely painful and stressful and his/her behavior may reflect this fact. Continue to lovingly support and respectfully discipline your child when he/she misbehaves. Refuse to say or do anything in front of your child that is disrespectful of your ex-partner.
  • Understand that your child’s adjustment to divorce is, in part, dependent on your ability to put aside your anger and to resist unnecessary conflict.
  • Try to limit changes in your child’s environment. If possible, preserve your child’s sense of security by keeping him/her in the same home, same school and same routine as prior to the divorce until he/she has had time to adjust.
  • Do not expose your child prematurely to a new partner. Your child will probably resent another adult in your life. Keep your personal life separate from your relationship with your child.
  • Do not use your child as a pawn, messenger or spy. Most children recognize these tactics and resent their parent for resorting to these underhanded behaviors.
  • If you and your ex-partner are having problems that negatively impact your child, consider divorce counseling, individual counseling or family counseling to ease the adjustment required for each family member to heal from divorce. Refer to the Child and Family Center at this website to find therapists with the qualifications and experience to guide you and your family through this difficult transition.

Manassas Group Members having special expertise in Helping Kids Cope with Divorce: