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

By Rumi Samuel Published on October 23, 2022
How to Help Your Child Deal With Divorce(4/4)

Each year, millions of children around the globe face family disruption, and in many countries, divorce rates are rising.1 Children experience divorce profoundly and personally, and the potential for adverse short- and long-term consequences is considerably higher for children whose parents divorce than those from non-divorced families. While parental divorce poses significant risks for children that warrant concern, research shows that these outcomes are not the same for all children, nor are they inevitable. Many factors can reduce risks and promote children’s resilience.2,3

The three most significant factors that impact children’s well-being during and after their parent’s separation or divorce are potentially within parents’ control: the degree and duration of hostile conflict, the quality of parenting provided over time, and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Underlying these, of course, are parents’ own well-being and ability to function effectively. By learning how to manage their conflict, parent effectively, and nurture warm and loving relationships with their children, parents can have a powerful, positive effect on their children, even as they undergo multiple difficult changes in their own lives.

Send the right welcome-home message

Parents are often unsure what to say when their kids come home from an ex's house. They don't want to seem disinterested, yet they're concerned about appearing too interested. To play it safe, they may say nothing. "This silence unconsciously sends the message that you're either unhappy, disapproving, or uncomfortable with the time he spent with his other parent," Neuman says. "Or it makes the child feel as if the visitor has betrayed somehow." How to best handle their return? Pretend your kids came home from a weekend at their grandparents' house. 

Be interested and supportive.

Allow kids to express disappointment

Don't downplay your child's pain and sadness. While done with the best intentions, telling kids comforting things like "It's better this way" and "Don't worry, everything will be fine" sends the message that you can't deal with your child's unhappiness, or worse, that he shouldn't feel that way. "Whether he's upset about the divorce in general or something more specific, like a parent's having to work late again, anger and disappointment are normal, healthy emotional reactions," Neuman says. "A child is entitled to these feelings and should be able to talk about them without worrying that his parents will be upset or angry." Please offer your support and comfort by letting your child know you understand -- and that his feelings matter. "Then he'll be free to confront disappointment rather than avoid it," Neuman says. "This will serve him well throughout his life."

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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