Divorce can be extremely difficult for couples, particularly when one spouse has done something to hurt the other.
But, it is important to remember that divorce is even more stressful for children. Many kids, especially younger ones, feel like the divorce is somehow their fault. Or, they worry that their life will never be normal again.
The stress of divorce can post both short- and long-term impacts to a child’s emotional and mental well-being. It’s important to put a conscious effort into helping your children cope during this difficult period in their lives. Here are some tips that can help:
1. Remember no-one is to blame, especially your children. Even if one parent has clearly been aggrieved, it is best to tell children something neutral with regarding the reason for the divorce. Explain that the two of you can’t get along anymore without going into too much detail. Children can’t understand complicated adult situations, and their tendency will be to blame themselves or develop damaging feelings toward one parent. Assure them that the divorce is not their fault, and that both parents still love them very much.
2. Be honest without over sharing. Respect your children by being honest with them, but do not expect them to support you emotionally. If you need to discuss your own feelings or vent, do it with someone else. Children do not need to hear about finances or how angry you are. Instead, your children need to see you as a strong source of support.
3. Validate your children’s feelings. If your children express fear, anger, guilt or even happiness regarding the divorce, listen with an open heart and mind. Assure your children their feelings are real, important and legitimate, even when they aren’t the same as yours. If you imply your children should feel the same way you do, you could alienate them and foster mistrust.
5. Maintain a civil discourse with the ex. This might seem impossible at times, but your children need both parents in their lives. Think long-term when it comes to talking about your ex and how it will affect your children. Remain positive, and frequently remind your children they are loved by both parents. Try your best not to accidentally make your children feel guilty for wanting to spend time with the other parent.
6. Retain routines. Routines promote stability. Even if things change due to geography, your children will benefit by continuing to participate in regular activities and maintaining existing friendships. When possible try to maintain consistent bedtimes, homework schedules and rules of the house. This is especially important when the parents share physical custody.
7. Get help if you need it. There is no shame in seeking professional help if either you or your children need it. Take care of yourself, and watch for warning signs in your children including acting out, becoming withdrawn, having trouble in school, or using drugs or alcohol.