The history of divorce can be traced all the way back to the mid-1600s in the American colonies. In those days, divorce was only an option for the wealthy. Modern society has become a bit desensitized to “other people’s divorces,” but it’s quite different when this strikes close to home.
Adult children of divorce have an increased risk of ending their own marriages via divorce. Unfortunately, the prevalence of divorce will not lessen the impact it has on your family. To help your children deal with a divorce, it’s crucial to understand the emotions they are experiencing.
Help Ease The Pain
Teenagers and pre-teens tend to learn about divorce through books, movies, or their friends. They are well aware of the fact that a divorce will undoubtedly change their lives. While your kids may not fully understand the impact of a divorce, they may experience a variety of emotions during the process. The degree to which the changes will affect them varies depending on a few factors outlined here.
- The quality of relationships with each parent prior to divorce.
- The duration and intensity of the conflict that led to the divorce.
- The ability of the parents to focus on their kids’ needs both during and after the divorce.
One simple way to help ease the pain is to explore a collaborative divorce option. When both spouses are willing and able to work together to avoid a high-conflict courtroom divorce, they can reduce the intensity of the situation at home. The goal here is to create an agreement that benefits the family and puts the kids’ needs first. This process can help reduce stress and excessive fighting for the entire family.
How To Handle The Children’s Reactions
If you can tell that your children are upset about the news of a divorce, let them know that you care about their feelings and reassure them that their emotions are perfectly normal at this time.
Tell your children that you are there for them whenever they are ready to talk about the situation. Some children may try to appease their parents by pretending that everything is normal. Sometimes stress can appear in other ways, like acting out at school, changing sleeping patterns, or socializing with a new group of friends.
Parents should prepare for questions, such as:
- Who will I live with going forward?
- Will I have to change schools?
- Where will both of you live?
- Where do I go on holidays?
- Will I still be able to see my friends?
- Will I still be able to participate in my favorite activities?
Of course, you may not be able to answer every question, but they will be reassured that answers are coming when they see their parents working together as a team toward a peaceful resolution.
How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce
Many children will lament the loss of the “family” they once knew. It’s perfectly natural for kids to hope their parents will reunite someday, even after you explain that the divorce is finalized. Over time, you and your children will accept the circumstances.
Here are a few ways you can help your children cope with an impending divorce:
- Encourage honesty: Children should understand that they will be taken seriously and that their feelings/opinions are valued by their parents.
- Validate their feelings: Make sure they know their feelings are valid during this time period. Try to understand their feelings before attempting to rectify the situation. Your children need to know it’s okay to feel sad, happy, or relieved about the future.
- Help them express themselves: Your children’s behavior will be the only indicator you need about their feelings of sadness or anger. Be patient and listen, even if it may be hard for you to hear what they have to say.
- Stay healthy: Separation and divorce are very stressful for adults. This pressure can only be magnified when combined with custody and financial issues. Find some healthy ways to deal with the stress surrounding you and your family. Keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy to help control the ongoing stress. By taking care of yourself, you are reassuring your children that you can take care of them as well.
- Offer support: If your kids are struggling, sitting down and talking or taking a walk with them can make them feel at ease. Younger children can enjoy Facetiming with the other parent when they need someone else to talk to.
- Keep the details in check: Maintain a degree of privacy and discretion when discussing the events leading up to your divorce. Keep your interactions with friends and family as polite as possible, especially when in front of your children. Always take the high road, even when your kids aren’t around. Keep any divorce letters, text messages, and emails in a secured area, away from your children.
- Seek moral support: Find a support group and talk to other individuals who have gone through this same situation. Getting help by yourself will set a good example for your kids on how to make healthy adjustments during times of transition. Seeking help from a counselor, friend, or therapist can also help you keep healthy boundaries with your children. Never lean on your kids for emotional support during a divorce. It is not a good idea to rely on them at this time, even if they offer support. Keep your venting with a friend or therapist.
How To Ease Your Child’s Comfort
Children’s reactions and emotions can vary day-to-day during this time. Often, they will try to protect their parents by keeping their feelings inside. While children can’t often label their emotions, you may be able to notice changes in their behaviors that suggest they may be experiencing the following:
- Anger: As your child deals with a divorce, they might exhibit signs of both anger and hostility. This could be directed at anyone, from their parents to other kids at school. Talk through these emotions with your kids and offer them some healthy ways to channel their anger.
- Denial: This is common for younger children to experience. It is crucial to help them deal with their parents’ divorce by reminding them that this decision is final. Be firm, but always loving to help them understand the next chapter in their lives.
- Abandonment: Kids might feel like they are being left behind by their parents. The family they once knew has vanished. Parents speaking poorly of each other can only heighten this feeling. Take some time to reassure your kids that they are loved and welcomed in both parents’ homes.
- Guilt: Ongoing conflicts between parents are often related to parenting. Children might begin to feel like they are responsible for the stress exhibited by their parents. This can lead to difficult transitions, refusal to stay with one of the parents, or even bargaining for reconciliation. Make sure your kids know this divorce is not their fault.
- Depression: This emotion could differ for every child in this situation. Indicators of depression include social withdrawal, a lack of enthusiasm, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Talk to your child immediately if you believe they are suffering from depression.
How To Help Your Kids Deal With Their Parents’ Divorce
Make sure to refrain from having any heated discussions about the divorce process in front of your kids. Strive to keep up with daily routines, which will keep disruptions to a minimum. Helping kids deal with a divorce is an essential step toward maintaining a healthy relationship for the long term.
Source: “Helping Your Child Through a Divorce (for Parents).” Edited by D’Arcy Lyness, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2015, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/help-child-divorce.html
There’s nothing better than the peace of mind you will have knowing you’ve protected your family at a time when they need it most. Let us help. Schedule a consultation or contact Ogborne Law, PLC of Arizona today.