Helping Children Cope with Divorce
Often likened to a death in the family, divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can experience in their life. Even an amicable divorce can be difficult to cope with. Add children into the mix, and matters can get even more complicated. For children, divorce can be a very stressful and emotional experience. To a child, parents separating can feel like the end of the world. They may fear the future, worry that they will never see one of their parents again, or feel responsible for their parent’s split. Fortunately, children can and do recover from divorce all the time. While the divorce period itself may be rough, and the transition from a single household to a co-parenting situation can be challenging, your children will recover. In the meantime, here are a few dos and do not’s for parents hoping to help their child cope with the news of their divorce.
- Do not place your child or children in the middle of conflict between you and your spouse. No child deserves to be forced to pick one parent over the other. Instead, reinforce to your children that no matter what happens, both parents love and support them equally.
- Along similar lines, avoid bad mouthing your spouse in front of your children. Keep in mind that children often think of themselves as half of mom and half of dad. If you speak poorly about your soon to be co-parent in front of your children, you are sending them the message that they are half bad. Additionally, you want your children to still respect both parents. If you constantly talk down on your ex, you could be telling your children not to respect them either. That will make co-parenting much more difficult.
- Do not have expectations for your children. They did not make the decision to separate, and while it may very well be in their best interest, they are still entitled to cope with the separation however they choose. Your job is to be available to help calm and reassure your children, and help them cope with the emotions they face.
- Do not use your children. All too often, parents attempt to gather information from their children about their ex. Again, this is forcing your children to pick sides. Children should be able to enjoy time with both parents without feeling like they are forced to spy. If your child returns from a visit at the other parent’s house, simply ask how the stay was. If they want to share more, they will.
- Priority number one; both parents should tell constantly tell their children “I love you, and I am not going anywhere.” While divorce is time consuming, both parents should schedule some quality bonding time with their children. Rather than force something, ask your children to choose an activity they enjoy. Spend time doing something that makes them happy, and continually reinforce that no matter what happens, both parents will still be there.
- Do encourage your children to spend time with both parents, no matter your feelings at the moment. Be as friendly as possible to your ex when you see them, and keep your relationship healthy. No matter what unresolved feelings you and your ex face due to your divorce, set those aside and prioritize the both of you being there for your children.
- Do keep a routine in place. Divorce is a difficult, confusing process for children, but a routine and parental structure will help children feel more reassured. If possible, coordinate with your other parent to try to keep routines in both households similar.
- Do be emotionally available to your children. They are going to have fears, concerns, and need support. Answer their questions as truthfully as possible. It is okay to say “I am not sure exactly what is going to happen, but know we both love you and will keep you safe.”
Our Attorneys Can Help
At Abear Law Offices, our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys can help you through your divorce while protecting your children. We offer a wide variety of divorce related services. Call 630-904-3033 to schedule a free consultation with us today.