The prospect of mom and dad splitting up can be confusing, stressful and sad. As a parent, you can make the process of divorce less painful for your children by giving them the right support through this unsettling time.
1. Your own recovery is important.
Work through your own feelings—anger, grief, guilt, fear, shame—regarding your ex spouse and the divorce. Take care of yourself so you can be emotionally present for your children.
2. Set the record straight.
Many kids blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. Convey to your child that the divorce is between the parents and it is in no way their fault. Help them let go of this misconception.
3. Give reassurance and love.
Reassure your children—in words and action—that they are still loved and will continue to be loved just as much.
4. Help children express their feelings.
Sad, angry, confused, anxious? Encourage your children to share their feelings honestly. Listen, really listen, to them. Show empathy. Let them know that their feelings are valid.
5. Shoot for consistency.
Maintain the same routine, as much as you can, and then talk with them about what their new routine will look like. Children feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next.
6. Get along with your ex for your child’s sake.
It’s not about you or your ex. It’s about what is best for your children.
Keep this big picture in mind even as you’re working on improving your relationship with your ex. And be flexible—don’t sweat the small stuff.
7. Encourage your child’s relationship with your ex. Respect it.
Give your children the opportunity to build a close relationship with both parents.
8. Don’t let your children get caught in the middle.
It’s never OK to pump your children for information about what went on when they were with their other parent. It’s unfair to use them as pawns or messengers. Never make your children feel like they have to choose sides.
9. Watch for changes in their behavior.
From excessive clinginess in young children to aggressive outbursts in older ones—watch out for ‘warning signs’ that your child is having trouble coping with the divorce.
10. Be patient as everyone adjusts.
Change is hard for most children and divorce is a biggie! Give your children time to cope and adjust. If things get worse rather than better over time, don’t hesitate to call on a professional.