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Divorce is a very traumatic and stressful experience for any adult. However, it is even more so for a child, no matter the age. During such hard times, both parents and kids need support, and when it comes to your children, you will have to be the one providing it. To do it properly, you need to understand what to expect, how to react, and what approach to take depending on a situation. For starters, you will have to break the news to your children.
How to Explain Divorce to a Child?
- Do it together with your spouse if possible. Prepare for the conversation and decide who will say what or will be responsible for answering specific questions. Seeing you cooperate like this will give a child some sense of stability.
- Explain why divorce is happening. Your children will definitely want to know the reason for your breakup, but it doesn’t mean you will have to go into specifics. Come up with a simple, neutral phrase. You may say that you grew apart and it would be best for both of you to move on. Make sure your kids know that your divorce is not their fault.
- Say what’s going to change… Discuss the new living arrangements, visitations, and other aspects of your post-divorce life and present them as your mutual agreements. If one of you is moving, your children need to understand that they are welcome at that place and it would be their second home.
- …And what’s not Children need to know that you and your spouse love them, and this is a forever promise. Explain that your marriage ending does not put an end to parenting and both of you wanting to be with your kids.
- Do not confide in them. Talking to kids about divorce, especially if they are old enough to understand the concept, you may be tempted to tell them the whole story. It is best to share it with your friends instead. Your children will need time to process their own emotions, and adding yours to the mix can make it a lot harder.
- Tell your kids about divorce without blaming anyone. Even if your spouse’s actions are the reasons why you’re ending the marriage, your children don’t need to know about that. It will be more important to provide support and care to your kids in such difficult times rather than discussing whose fault it was.
Handling a Child' Reactions
- Don’t let a child dealing with divorce suffer in silence. Encourage them to share and offer all the attention, love, and support you can during these hard times. It is also crucial for the second parent to act the same way, so the kid can see how important he or she is for both parents.
- Remember that divorce affects children regardless of their age. Whether you kids have barely learned how to talk or no longer live with you, they will feel the change. Let them know that they have the right to feel the way they do, it is normal, and you care about them.
- Be ready for any reaction, even a positive one. Your child may cry, become aggressive, scream, be shocked, or go into depression. Alternatively, they may understand your decision or even be happy about the divorce if they witnessed you and your spouse arguing a lot.
- Respond to reactions calmly but set boundaries. For instance, don’t scream in response if your kid does it. Your child will likely take a divorce personally, and you need to assure them it has nothing to do with what they did without going into much detail or answering overly intrusive questions directly.
- Give them time to adjust. An initial reaction to divorce news is just the beginning. You need to have patience and help your child heal over time. It may take months after you get over the divorce for your kid to do the same.
- Get professional help if possible. If possible, go to counseling both as a family and separately. Both you and your kids will likely need individual sessions to process your emotions and move on.
Parenting Through Divorce
- Spending quality time together. Your children should realize that the end of the marriage does not mean the end of a family. Make plans so that your kids know that you will still spend some time together, sharing positive emotions and memories.
- Staying respectful with your ex. Your child loves both of you and would suffer from hearing you badmouth their mom or dad. Besides, revealing some unpleasant or even shocking information about the second parent may affect kid’s mental health in the long run.
- Making the life of your child as comfortable as possible. If you and your spouse share physical custody, make sure that all the conditions are perfect for your kid. Give them their own space in the new home, ensure that they can maintain their friend circle, and keep their routine convenient for them.
8 Strategies for Helping Kids Adjust to a Divorce
Here is how to help a child deal with divorce:
- Assure your children that your divorce is not their fault. Many kids believe that their parent’s breakup is a result of their misbehavior or any other actions, and your task is to make sure that your kids do not feel this way.
- Talk to the kid about their feelings. Your son or daughter should be aware of the feelings they are dealing with and be able to put them into words. Talking about them will be a great relief for your child and might help you understand how to help them better.
- Tell the kid where the second parent will live and assure that they will spend enough time together. Also, it is a good idea to share life plans with your child, so he or she may feel safer and more secure about the future.
- Offer your kid to go through therapy. A family expert can help them deal with their feelings and emotions during this difficult period.
- Maintain a daily routine for your children. Kids are extremely stressed during the divorce process not only because of their parent’s separation, but also due to the shift in daily routine. That is why it is important to keep the usual way of life of your kid to reduce his or her stress.
- Show your love and affection to children. Give your child what he or she longs for: hugs, kisses, or warm conversations. All of this will make your son or daughter feel loved and safe.
- Be involved in the life of your child together with your spouse. A trusting relationship with both mom and dad is crucial for a kid of any age. Your child should not be afraid to share their thoughts and fears with both of you.
- Pay attention to changes in the kid’s behavior: bad quality of sleep, low appetite, decreased school performance, conflicts with peers, aggressive behavior, etc. These aspects may signal that your son or daughter is experiencing severe stress and needs professional help.
Minimizing the Effect of Divorce on Children
Helping kids cope with divorce and minimizing the traumatic effect it might have should be on top of your priority list. There are a few things you may try doing to reduce the impact of divorce on children:
- Prepare your child for divorce. Let them know about it in due time before others do.
- Try to reach an agreement with your spouse. If you settle your disputes and file for uncontested divorce, it will be quicker, simpler, cheaper, and less stressful for everyone.
- Do not ask kids to choose sides. Let them maintain good relationship with both parents unless it’s dangerous to them.
Even if you and your spouse approach the divorce in a peaceful way, your children might still have a severe reaction to it. Making divorce easier is possible if you do it together with the spouse, as it is very important for the kid to see both parents being fully involved in their life, and showering them with love and support.
How do I Keep a Stable Environment for my Kids and Myself Through the Divorce Process?
It is quite difficult for a child to get used to a new life after divorce. That’s why it is important to make sure that you have provided a stable environment for your kid during the process.
Making divorce easier for your child lies a lot in routine and healthy habits. Take care of your kid and yourself. Have enough sleep, keep a proper diet, and try to make plans for the future. Confide in your friends when you’re feeling down or find support circles for divorcees to heal.
Relationship after divorce with kids might be harder to maintain than before, but it’s the most important aspect of your life. Therefore, put your child’s interests first when making decisions that involve them, but keep in mind that your happiness is their happiness as well. Therefore, you need to take care of yourself as much as you take care of them.