How to Help Your Child Deal With Divorce(3/4)

By Rumi Samuel Published on October 16, 2022
How to Help Your Child Deal With Divorce(3/4)

A separation or divorce is a highly stressful and emotional experience for everyone involved, but children often feel that their whole world has turned upside down. At any age, it can be traumatic to witness the dissolution of your parent’s marriage and the breakup of the family. Kids may feel shocked, uncertain, or angry. Some may even feel guilty, blaming themselves for the problems at home. Divorce is never a seamless process, and inevitably, such a transitional time doesn’t happen without some measure of grief and hardship. But you can dramatically reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority.

Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimise tension as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances. By providing routines your kids can rely on, you remind them that they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And by maintaining a working relationship with your ex, you can help your kids avoid the stress and anguish that comes with watching parents in conflict. With your support, your kids can not only successfully navigate this unsettling time but even emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong—and even with a closer bond with both parents.

For kids, divorce can feel like an intense loss—the loss of a parent, the loss of the family unit, or the loss of the life they knew. You can help your children grieve their loss and adjust to new circumstances by assisting them in expressing their emotions.

Don't fight in front of your kids -- period

Heated conversations regarding unreliability or finances should take place on the phone when your kids aren't around. Research has found that the most poorly adjusted kids of divorce are those exposed to ongoing parental battles. "No one is saying you have to be best friends," Dr Teyber says. "Some couples can't get along or trust each other and aren't likely to. But for your children's sake, you must stop fighting in front of them."

Aim for peaceful transitions

Even if you're not openly argumentative, kids can sense tension and become anxious. According to Dr Knox, research shows that many fathers avoid visiting their children simply because running into their exes becomes too much of an ordeal. "Some dads complain that they just can't handle the conflict when seeing their former spouse," he says. "Or a dad arrives at an anxious child and assumes his ex has been bad-mouthing him. The father ends up rationalising that it's better if he doesn't come at all.." No matter how upset or angry you feel, be civil. If you genuinely can't, it might be best for your ex to collect your child from the neutral ground -- at a friend's, at school, or a McDonald's -- and you can leave for your car when you see him drive in.

Say goodbye with a smile

When your child goes off to be with the other parent, make it clear that you're happy she's spending time with him. Mothers can unconsciously make their children feel guilty about leaving. "If a child sees her mom is upset when it's time for her to leave, she won't be able to have a good time with her father," Dr Teyber says. Let your child know she doesn't need to worry about you. This will help your ex feel less tense about pickups too.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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