Tips for Helping Children Cope with Divorce
Divorce is a multi-layered, complex process that is both emotionally and financially draining. When children are involved, it further complicates an already difficult situation. Oftentimes parents struggle to find the right words to comfort a child in the wake of a divorce. Reading books about divorce can open up opportunities to talk about feelings. As parents, you can get a peak at how the child is handling the situation and address their worries, feelings, and confusion. Here is some additional guidance to help children navigate and come through the other side with as little distress as possible.
Tip 1: Kids Need to Understand that It's Not Their Fault
It is not uncommon for parents to argue about issues involving their children, especially when their marriage is dissolving. The arguments may be about child-related expenses, household duties, schoolwork, mealtime, or a myriad of other things. Usually these kinds of fights are a symptom of an underlying marital problem. But unfortunately, the kids are left feeling guilty and responsible for the divorce. Make sure to have very direct, ongoing conversations with your children about the fact that they are not at fault in any way for the divorce. Keep an open dialogue and reinforce this message whenever appropriate.
Tip 2: Do Not Speak Poorly About the Other Parent
This is one of the most difficult tips to follow, especially if one parent is more at fault than the other. When a divorce occurs as a result of a betrayal, an addiction, financial disparities, emotional abuse, or some other reason, it's natural to want to share these details with the children. Keep in mind that kids, depending on their age and maturity, are not capable of understanding complex marital problems. Also, it's crucial to keep a child's relationship with both parents intact, especially when the each one is still fulfilling their obligations as a mother or father.
Tip 3: Keep the Child's Life as Consistent as Possible
When parents are going through a divorce, time, money and resources are stretched beyond reason. However, it's really important to try and keep the children on the same pre-divorce routine. Staying involved with sports and other extracurricular activities is more important than ever before. The time they spend at practice is a healthy break from stress at home. Also, it's important for kids to understand that the other aspects of their lives will be unchanged. The same routine, boundaries, and expectations of the children should stay in place. For older kids, their social circles are an incredibly important support system that should not be disrupted, if at all possible. Purchase a few good tween novels about divorce which will cover a lot of relatable issues, emotions, and experiences.
Tip 4: Find a Good Therapist for Your Child
Make it a priority to find a child therapist who specializes in divorce. Even if your child seems to be adjusting to the separation, you should make an effort to find someone they can trust to talk about it. Even if both parents have a healthy relationship with their children, it's important for them to have a neutral, professional adult who can dispense guidance and listen. Many times, therapists will recommend children's divorce workbooks to supplement the counseling sessions. The effects of divorce on a child can last years, sometimes even a lifetime, so a few quick sessions isn't a solution. This will be a process with no defined end date. However, if you invest in the time and resources your child needs now, you can expect a good outcome.
Tip 5: Do Not Compensate by Spoiling Your Children
This is one of the toughest rules to follow, especially since parents usually feel guilty about the effect of the divorce on their children. It's a natural response for parents to go overboard and buy their children toys and treats. These things may make the child smile temporarily and bring the parents some relief in the moment, but the long term effects are undesirable. While it's okay to do some fun things to take a child's mind off the divorce, steer clear from excessively spoiling them with spontaneous, exorbitant gifts.
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