Helping Children Cope with Divorce

Updated March 13, 2019

If you’ve exhausted all avenues, and there’s nothing left of your marriage, separation is the inevitable solution. One of the hardest decisions to make, divorce is claimed to be as traumatic as bereavement. Hence why so many parents seek parenting classes for divorce.

But, for those facing the prospect of divorce where children are involved, this time is made all the more difficult. Not only do you have to deal with your own emotions, but that too of your children. Especially when they learn you’ll no longer all be living together under the same roof.

Divorce and Its Effect on Children

Some couples will question is it better to stay together for a child? But if you’re heading for a divorce and have no feelings left for one another – to stay for the children will make it worse long term.

You may end up despising one another, and in time the children will bear the brunt of this pent up anger. In any case, those parents who do divorce at the right time can build a better relationship both with one another and their children.

Yet, the problem remains that even though this may be the right decision now for both adults and indeed the rest of your family, children don’t have that capacity at such a young age to understand why their parents no longer want to be with one another.

Almost every child will question whether they’re to blame, why they can’t keep their parents together and believe they’re the cause of it. While we know this to be wrong, a child will take a lot more convincing that they couldn’t have behaved differently and stopped this from happening.

How to Explain Divorce to a Child

None of us want to deliver bad news to our children, but if you’re planning on divorcing, you have no choice other than to approach the subject and inform your child. We often don’t realize how much our children pick up on, and many times forget to grant them the respect they deserve.

But just as you and your partner have to work through this separation, so too do those children coping with divorce.  It may seem hard to explain to your child what is happening when you’re feeling confused yourself at this point. However, it’s perfectly okay to tell this to your children too.

The best way of how to discuss divorce with your child is to:

  • Sit down with them together, free of any distractions
  • Tell them exactly what is happening
  • Let them ask questions and try to answer them as honestly as possible
  • Put on a united front as a couple for this part
  • Admit that it’s going to be a bit tough to start but that all together you will get through it
  • Accept their emotions, both when upset and angry and allow then to vent here
  • Give them as much time beforehand to digest the concept before starting the official separation

If you’re wondering how does parental separation affect a child, the work you do here, and the stance you take will make all the difference in how well they respond to the upcoming changes ahead of them.

Some parents also find parenting divorce class immensely imensely helpful, especially when it comes to managing co-parenting arrangements. Our Family Wizard is a popular piece of software that makes shared parenting so much easier, as it allows both parents to share and keep each other updated without direct communication.

Strategies When Helping Children Cope with Divorce

It’s crucial here to let your children know they’re loved by you both. Even if you think they already know- tell them. Sometimes during separation, those little words of I love you, I care for you, and also I’m always here for you can all too easily be forgotten. Make it a point to speak about your love throughout this time:

• Encourage your children to talk about the process, no matter how angry they are. This means letting them know it’s okay to be angry and say what’s on their mind encouraging them to put feelings into words.

Let them tell you what they think about the whole process, and what their opinions on it all are. You may learn so much more about your children if you allow them the stage at this point.

• Allocate another adult who they can talk to about both of you. A great idea during separation and divorce is to have that one family member or close friend whom both you and the children know and trust and who can be impartial throughout.

Talk about the idea of them being the go-to should your children be struggling to tell you such things. Therefore, any problems you weren’t aware of can be dealt with immediately, before they escalate.

• Don’t argue in front of your children. Though easier said than done, half of the problems with children accepting divorce is the rowing, bickering, and sheer nasty comments they’re subjected to throughout this time.

If you’re working hard to implement the above changes, don’t ruin it all in seconds by having full-blown arguments in front of your children. Instead, take time out and go somewhere else.

• Organize the next steps and work with your children to update them of what happens next. This is important even if you aren’t yet too sure of it yourself. Explain what will come next and offer a time scale, keeping them as informed as much as you can as to how it will affect them and their current living arrangements, plus access issues. All children thrive on routine and consistency in their lives, so try to place a bit back into it during the following weeks and months.

• Never bad mouth your partner to your children when they’re about to leave to visit them. Instead, work on keeping your home environment safe, calm, and non-judgmental. When they come home, let them feel free to discuss their day if they want to.

Subsequently, let them know they don’t have to talk about it if they don’t want to. This is the simplistic way as to how to stop triangulation in families

• Don’t overcompensate for their feelings. It can be all too easy here to lay off the parenting, allowing your child a free pass for their bad behavior during this time. However, this won’t do any of you good in the future but create more problems going forward.

While you can accept they’re feeling a range of emotions, how to deal with an angry child after divorce isn’t by excusing all bad behavior. If anything, children need the consistency of your parenting more than ever during this turbulent time.

Help Your Children to Look Toward the Future

It’s worth remembering that with emotions high, there will be both bad and good days as you proceed with your divorce. This time will, therefore, be tough, adjusting to a new period and a new life change. However, how you both choose to approach it with your children will make a big difference in its progress for you as a family unit.

Children tend to live in the now and struggle to see the future. Therefore, they may worry that this is how it will always be. But work on keeping them updated, keeping communication open, and reassuring them. And, in time, you should all be able to see those better times ahead.

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