Divorce can be difficult and stressful for everyone concerned. While it affects a wide circle of people, children are often impacted the most. Children, especially if they are very young, may worry that they caused the divorce or that they will be losing one parent. They may feel intense anxiety about what will happen after the divorce occurs.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways of helping children through divorce.
Parents should explain the divorce jointly
Pick a quiet time with no distractions. Parents should sit down with their children and explain that a divorce is occurring. You can keep the explanation very simple, but children need to know that a divorce will be happening, so as not have the dissolution of a household sprung upon them. You can simply say that you are unhappy together and that it is best to live apart. Emphasize that love and concern for the children from both parents will continue after the divorce.
Be sure to state that the child has nothing to do with the divorce. It is best to reassure on this score consistently throughout the process and after. It is very natural, and common, for children to worry that they have done something to cause a parent to leave.
Avoid blame and anger
Never, ever use your children as a sounding board for your anger towards your spouse. It is quite natural and understandable to have these feelings. But you need to talk to friends, family, and counselors about them, not your children.
Expressing blame and anger may place the child in a position of either having to take sides, or feeling that they should take sides. Children have two parents, and need to work out a harmonious relationship to the largest degree possible.
Remember to put the needs of the child first
Children are dependent upon adults for their care, including their housing, their food, their education, their transportation, their clothing, and their healthcare, among others.
All of the factors that make up parental care need to be considered very carefully as you face divorce. While the needs of both spouses are highly important, of course, the needs of the child in basic care must be considered first. In the best case scenario, you and your spouse may be able to arrive at a mutually agreeable plan for all facets of a child’s care. In other cases, litigation may be needed.
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- Mayo Clinic. Children and divorce: Helping kids after a breakup. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/divorce/art-20047788
- Wallace, Meri. “8 Strategies for Helping Kids Adjust to a Divorce.” Psychology Today. February 2, 2013. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-raise-happy-cooperative-child/201302/8-strategies-helping-kids-adjust-divorce