It is an obvious fact that divorce is an incredibly tough time for the two parties involved. One thing that is equally true is that divorce is also difficult for the children whose lives will be affected by the divorce. For children, their parents’ separation means a change in family holidays, living situations, and so much more.
Walking through the divorce process with your former partner is a tense and stressful journey in itself. Despite the difficulty, the two of you must come together to also help your child cope with the changes.
This is, of course, easier said than done, so here are some methods that can help you and your co-parent approach the topic with your child and guide them through all the adjustments.
Explaining the Situation to Your Child
Learning about the divorce will certainly hurt your child’s feelings. They will feel shocked and sad, and maybe even angry at the situation. Sit them down together and discuss the divorce in this way.
1. Tell the truth.
There is no sugarcoating the reality that you and your former partner are separating. As your children, they also have the right to hear the truth from their parents. Be simple and straightforward about it, too.
If your kids are older, they will require more in-depth explanations about your divorce, but younger kids will not be able to comprehend those details just yet. For younger children, keep your explanations short. Allow them to ask questions, too, if there are things they need clarification about.
2. Explain how things will be different.
You should also tell them what will change from then on. One of the biggest concerns is how your living arrangements will be affected.
Before promising anything to your children, make sure you and your co-parent have had discussions with your child custody attorney on custody options and the best route to take for your kids. Your kids also have preferences for their living arrangements, so hear those out, too.
Other matters, such as attendance in school events and frequency of visits with the other parent, should also be addressed as details become finalized. Keep in mind what is best for your child as you plan these things.
3. Reassure them.
Your kids may feel like it is their fault that you are getting a divorce. Make it very clear to them that the reasons behind the divorce have nothing to do with them, and always reassure them that you love them and will still be their parents.
Let them know, too, that despite the changes, you will still be there to be their mom or dad. You can still help out when homework gets difficult, pick up the phone when they want to talk, and take them to their favorite restaurant on special occasions. Your child wants to be assured of your presence in their life.
Helping Them Cope with the Divorce
After the arrangements are explained to your kids, it can still take time to get used to them. Here are some ways to help your child cope healthily.
1. Listen to their feelings.
Your child must have a lot of emotions that they have to process. Sit down with them and listen to how they feel about the situation. Do not invalidate them, and do not get angry.
Younger children may have a harder time verbalizing their complicated emotions. Help them out by asking questions and offering words of encouragement as they talk.
2. Respect your co-parent’s relationship with them.
A difficult thing about divorcing your former spouse is the reality that they will continue to play a large role in your children’s lives. Even if there are unresolved issues on your end, do not badmouth your former partner to your kids. Understand that as you and your child have your own unique bond, they and their other parent also have their own.
Do not get into arguments in front of your kids, too. If communication is difficult, minimize exchanges through texts or emails when you need to update your child or other matters.
3. Be sensitive to their struggles.
Still, the whole ordeal is hard for everyone. Even as you help them through it, acceptance might be tougher on some days than they are on others. Be understanding of their feelings and remain patient.
As you go through your own journey, apply this kindness and patience to yourself, too. Nobody recovers from divorce overnight, but it is possible to get through with the right support system and healthy coping methods.