Divorce is the type of situation no one wants to endure – especially with children in tow. Unfortunately, millions of families experience divorce every year. While it may seem like nothing positive could come of a split household, there are ways of navigating the divorce process to help your children cope with the circumstances in a healthy way. Whether you and your ex-spouse are on friendly terms or battling over every last detail of custody and finances, keep in mind your children need comfort during this difficult process.
Explaining why you’re choosing to divorce
As soon as you tell your children you’re getting divorced, they’ll probably want to know why. Although the circumstances may be too complicated to explain to a young child, it’s important you and your spouse explain why you’re choosing to separate in terms that are easily understood. An explanation provides your child with a better understanding of what’s happening.
Depending on your child’s age and understanding, you may have to explain more than once why you are divorcing. Try to be patient throughout this process and answer your kids’ questions appropriately as they arise. Allow your children to talk about how they feel about the divorce and let them know how they feel is okay.
Most importantly, you must let your children know they’re not the reason you’re divorcing. Many children carry guilt for causing a divorce because of a lack of understanding. Some may wonder if their parents would’ve stayed together if they were better behaved. If after explaining the divorce, a child still seems to carry guilt or a heavy conscience, consider seeking professional counseling on behalf of your child.
Explaining how divorce will affect your children
Children often want to know how divorce will affect them. They may wonder if they’ll see their non-custodial parents after the divorce. Others may wonder if their parents could suddenly stop loving them and decide to divorce them as well. Although you may not know all the details of your divorce when you inform your children of your separation, try to be candid about how your children will be affected by the divorce proceedings. If possible, keep them out of the middle of arguments or custody battles and instead let them know they’ll be living with one parent, but able to see the other parent during special visitations.
Making the move a little easier
Moving can be one of the most difficult aspects of divorce. Whether your children move to another house or remain in their existing home while a parent moves out, the adjustment process may seem overwhelming. Children may wonder whether they’ll see friends again or continue to attend the same school. If your children will be moving from an existing home, talk to them early and often about the transition. Introduce your children to the new community or home in which they’ll live before leaving the existing home.
Every child copes with divorce differently. Children over the age of three may revert to baby-like behavior, while school-aged children may display grief, anger and frustration. Teenagers are more likely to mask or suppress feelings, often acting out against others or a parent.
A divorce – no matter how messy – should not be more difficult on children than necessary. Avoid displaying bitterness toward your ex-spouse and never ask children to choose sides. Your truthfulness and understanding will help your children cope with difficult feelings in a healthy way.