Whether it is the latest breakup of a
Hollywood couple or reports of skyrocketing statistics,
divorce is a common news item. These stories are scary to
children, not so much for what they say about the Hollywood
couple, but rather what it might mean for mom and dad. With
the divorce rate at 50%, it may be difficult to convince
your children that they have nothing to fear, but you could
alleviate some of their fears by talking with them and
sharing some simple facts. Even though some couples who
argue do end up getting a divorce, it doesnt mean that
every time mom and dad argue they are thinking about getting
divorced. Above all, make sure your kids understand that
when two people divorce each other, they arent
divorcing their children. Let your children know that when
divorces happen, both parents still love and will continue
to care for their kids.
children cope with divorce - First
Support your children by helping them express emotions, and commit to truly listening to these feelings without getting defensive. Your next job is reassuranceassuaging fears, straightening misunderstandings, and showing your unconditional love. The bottom line: kids need to know that your divorce isnt their fault.
Help kids express feelings
For kids, divorce can feel like loss: the loss of a parent, the loss of the life they know. You can help your children grieve and adjust to new circumstances by supporting their feelings.
Listen. Encourage your child to share their feelings and really listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.
Help them find words for their feelings. Its normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.
Let them be honest. Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. If they arent able to share their honest feelings, they will have a harder time working through them.
Acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings rather than dismissing them. You can also inspire trust by showing that you understand.
Clearing up misunderstandings
Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce, recalling times they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble. You can help your kids let go of this misconception.
Set the record straight. Repeat why you decided to get a divorce. Sometimes hearing the real reason for your decision can help.
Be patient. Kids may seem to get it one day and be unsure the next. Treat your childs confusion or misunderstandings with patience.
Reassure. As often as you need to, remind your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.
Give reassurance and love
Children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your children of your unchanging love.
Both parents will be there. Let your kids know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit may change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents.
Itll be okay. Tell kids that things wont always be easy, but that they will work out. Knowing itll be all right can provide incentive for your kids to give a new situation a chance.
Closeness. Physical closenessin the form of hugs, pats on the shoulder, or simple proximityhas a powerful way of reassuring your child of your love.
Be honest. When kids raise concerns or anxieties, respond truthfully. If you dont know the answer, say gently that you arent sure right now, but youll find out and it will be okay.
Helping children cope with divorce: Provide stability and structure
While its good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new things at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.
Remember that establishing structure and continuity doesnt mean that you need rigid schedules or that mom and dads routines need to be exactly the same. But creating some regular routines at each household and consistently communicating to your children what to expect will provide your kids with a sense of calm and stability
The comfort of routines
The benefit of schedules and organization for younger children is widely recognized, but many people dont realize that older children appreciate routine, as well. Kids feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next. Knowing that, even when they switch homes, dinnertime is followed by a bath and then homework, for example, can set a childs mind at ease.
Maintaining routine also means continuing to observe rules, rewards, and discipline with your children. Resist the temptation to spoil kids during a divorce by not enforcing limits or allowing them to break rules.
Helping children cope with divorce: Take care of yourself
The first safety instruction for an airplane emergency is to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. The take-home message: take care of yourself so that you can be there for your kids.
Your own recovery
If you are able to be calm and emotionally present, your kids will feel more at ease. The following are steps you can take toward improving your own well-being and outlook:
Exercise often and eat a healthy diet. Exercise relieves the pent-up stress and frustration that are commonplace with divorce. And although cooking for one can be difficult, eating healthfully will make you feel better, inside and outso skip the fast food.
See friends often. It may be tempting to hole up and not see friends and family who will inevitably ask about the divorcebut the reality is that you need the distraction. Ask friends to avoid the topic; theyll understand.
Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings, thoughts, and moods can help you release tension, sadness, and anger. As time passes, you can look back on just how far youve come.
Youll need support
At the very least, divorce is complicated and stressfuland can be devastating without support.
Lean on friends. Talk to friends or a support group about your bitterness, anger, frustrationwhatever the feeling may beso you dont take it out on your kids.
Never vent negative feelings to your child. Whatever you do, do not use your child to talk it out like you would with a friend.
Keep laughing. Try to inject humor and play into your life and the lives of your children as much as you can; it can relieve stress and give you all a break from sadness and anger.
See a therapist. If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame, or guilt, find a professional to help you work through those feelings.
Conflict between parentsseparated or notcan be very damaging for kids. Its crucial to avoid putting your children in the middle of your fights, or making them feel like they have to choose between you.
Rules of thumb
Remember that your goal is to avoid lasting stress and pain for your children. The following tips can save them a lot of heartache.
Take it somewhere else. Never argue in front of your children, whether its in person or over the phone. Ask your ex to talk another time, or drop the conversation altogether.
Use tact. Refrain from talking with your children about details of their other parents behavior. Its the oldest rule in the book: if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all.
Be nice. Be polite in your interactions with your ex-spouse. This not only sets a good example for your kids but can also cause your ex to be gracious in response.
Look on the bright side. Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members. Encourage children to do the same.
Work on it. Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. Watching you be friendly can reassure children and teach problem-solving skills as well.
The big picture
If you find yourself, time after time, locked in battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose at hand.
Relationship with both parents. Whats best for your kids in the long run? Having a good relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives.
The long view. If you can keep long-term goalsyour childrens physical and mental health, your independencein mind, you may be able to avoid disagreements about daily details. Think ahead in order to stay calm.
Everyones well-being. The happiness of your children, yourself, and, yes, even your ex, should be the broad brushstrokes in the big picture of your new lives after divorce.
Helping children cope with divorce: Know when to seek help
Some children go through divorce with relatively few problems, while others have a very difficult time. Its normal for kids to feel a range of difficult emotions, but time, love, and reassurance should help them to heal. If your kids remain overwhelmed, though, you may need to seek professional help.
Normal reactions to separation and divorce
Although strong feelings can be tough on kids, the following reactions can be considered normal for children.
Anger. Your kids may express their anger, rage, and resentment with you and your spouse for destroying their sense of normalcy.
Anxiety. Its natural for children to feel anxious when faced with big changes in their lives.
Mild depression. Sadness about the familys new situation is normal, and sadness coupled with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness is likely to become a mild form of depression.
It will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the separation or divorce, but you should see gradual improvement over time .
Red flags for more serious problems
Normal reactions of your child to separation and divorce are anger, anxiety and mild depression. If things get worse rather than better after several months , it may be a sign that your child is stuck and could use some additional support. Watch for these warning signs:
Discuss these or other divorce-related
warning-signs with your childs doctor, teachers, or
consult a child therapist for guidance on coping with
Helping children cope
with divorce - Second Persecutive
2. Listen to the questions and be patient. Sometimes we find the words he needs together. If he decides that he wants the subject to change, its his call. I let him lead.
3 Never be disrespectful when referring to Kadens mom. This is probably one of the most important things that divorced parents need to remember. The relationship they have with your child is real and its important.
4. Drawing pictures together can help aid in your explanations and answers. This is not only a good way to help boil down a complex situation, but its also an activity you can share as you talk.
5. Make every effort to practice good communication with your ex. remained friends if at all possible. I do know this: ex-spouses who can find ways to stay civil, respectful and work together as parents, will see the positive effects of such effort in their children. It takes work, but its totally worth it.
6. Get doughnuts. While Im not a
big fan of junk food, getting doughnuts on the way to school
is one of Kadens favorite things to do with me. The 20
minutes we have sitting in Tim Hortons creates a perfect
situation for us to talk about anything he wants.
Ironically, its become a special place in our routine
at least once a week. In reality, the spot or activity
doesnt matter as long as you are getting some
one-to-one time outside of home. Find your own special
How to Talk With Your
Kids About Divorce, Separation, or an Absent Parent - Third
Remain Positive - Your children will take their cues from you. Make every effort to remain positive and upbeat, and you'll find that your attitude is contagious. The changes you are making in your life right now may not be the ones that you would have wanted, but life is an adventure, and together you're going to make the best of it.
Remind Your Children That You Love Them Unconditionally - This is absolutely critical. Even if your kids aren't hinting that they have questions about whether you could ever fall "out of love" with them, tell them explicitly over and over again that you will always love them, no matter what they do. You want them to know that there is absolutely nothing that could ever stop you from loving them!
Make Sure Your Actions Support Your Words - This one is tricky. We all know that actions speak louder than words, and no where in our lives is this more true than with our kids. However, right now, you're hurting; and you may find it extremely difficult to be patient and caring with your children, when every fiber of your being is screaming for some space to grieve your loss. Try to be aware of whether the messages you are giving to your kids with your words match the messages you are giving them with your actions, and even your body language. Being consistent in this regard may mean that you have to occasionally schedule some time away from your kids, so that you can sort through your own feelings and return home with renewed energy and resolve.
Be Patient - You may find that your child asks the same questions over and over. This doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't explaining the answers clearly enough. Children often need to hear the same information many times in order for it to make sense in their own minds. In fact, many children will replay these important conversations, while they are resting or playing, and knowing that they have the answers and sequence correct in their minds can be very reassuring.
Don't Speak Negatively About the Other Parent - Being a product of yourself and the other parent, your children will not be able to separate negative words spoken about the other parent from their impressions of your feelings about them. So as angry as you might feel toward the other parent right now, remember that criticizing him or her in front of your children will feel to them, either subconsciously or consciously, as though you are criticizing them as individuals, not just the other parent, with whom you may be legitimately angry.
Don't Change the Subject or Avoid the Conversation - Honor your children's need to discuss their questions. This is natural and should not be avoided or discouraged. In addition, you may find that your children will ask certain questions again and again. Try to empathize with their need to familiarize themselves with as many details as they can, and be patient when they approach you with the same questions you discussed yesterday.
Don't Share Inappropriate Details - Respect that your children do not need - and should not be privy to - the specific details leading up to your breakup. Keep those details to yourself when responding to their questions. In addition, if you feel they are pressing you for more information than you are prepared to share, tell your children outright that some of these details are adult in nature, and while you want to answer all of their questions, there are some details that you will not discuss.
Don't Expect Your Child to Take Sides - It's nice to have people around you who agree with you and support your decisions and actions. However, that supportive role is not one that your children should fill. Save that for your adult friendships. Remember that this is not about taking sides. Regardless of how wrong you feel your ex's behavior and decisions have been, your child will - one some level - still desire to have a relationship with him or her, and you can support your child by being supportive of that continuing relationship.
Don't Talk About Child Support
or Alimony- Finally, child support is an adult
concern. If you are the parent collecting child support
and/or alimony,your children have no control over when and
if the checks will arrive, so spare them the details when
your ex's child support checks are late or altogether
missing. Keep in mind, too, that your children are most
likely already well aware of your ex's shortcomings in this
regard, and outwardly blaming him or her in front of your
children will only make them feel unnecessarily responsible
for this adult matter.
Improving Emotional Health
For children, divorce can be
stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel
uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting
up. As a parent, you can make the process and its effects
less painful for your children. Helping your kids cope with
divorce means providing stability in your home and attending
to your children's needs with a reassuring, positive
attitude. It won't be a seamless process, but these tips can
help your children cope.
Helping children cope
with divorce: Supporting your child through a divorce -
There are many ways you can help your kids adjust to separation or divorce. Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. By providing routines kids can rely on, you remind children they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And if you can maintain a working relationship with your ex, you can help kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict. Such a transitional time cant be without some measure of hardship, but you can powerfully reduce your childrens pain by making their well-being your top priority.
What I need from my mom and dad: A childs list of wants
Helping children cope
with divorce: What to tell your kids - Fifth perspective
When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing significantly before you sit down to talk. If you can anticipate tough questions, deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what youll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children handle the news.
What to say and how to say it
Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honestbut kid-friendlyexplanation.
Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like We cant get along anymore. You may need to remind your children that while sometimes parents and kids don't always get along, parents and kids don't stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.
Say I love you. However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasnt changed is a powerful message. Tell them youll still be caring for them in every way
Address changes. Preempt your kids questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things wont. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go.
Its vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, such as infidelity, but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.
Present a united front. As much as you can, try to agree in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorceand stick to it.
Plan your conversations. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. And plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.
Show restraint. Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.
How much information to give
Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, youll need to pick and choose how much to tell your children. Think carefully about how certain information will affect them.
Be age-aware. In general, younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation, while older kids may need more information.
Share logistical information. Do tell kids about changes in their living arrangements, school, or activities, but dont overwhelm them with the details.
Keep it real. No matter how much or how little you decide to tell your kids, remember that the information should be truthful above all else.
"However often marriage dissolved, it remains indissoluble. Real divorce, the divorce of heart and nerve and fiber, does not exist, since there is no divorce from memory." - Virgilia Peterson
Except maybe in Glen Campbell's situation- video