Making the decision to divorce is hard enough when thinking about only the spouses involved, add kids to the mix and things get ten times more difficult. If you are going through a divorce, most likely you are concerned about how your decision to separate will affect your children, and how are you going to tell them? As parents we are constantly trying to protect our children from any pain and suffering, the reality is that the news of your parents’ divorcing, no matter how carefully delivered, is going to cause some kind of pain, hurt, or confusion in the eyes of your child. Although you can’t control how you or your child will feel during this stressful time in your lives, you can make the choice to commit to seeking out effective ways to handle and offer a positive healthy source of support for your children. Committing to this will allow them to adjust to the divorce in a positive way, and in their own way as you lovingly guide them through the process.
- If possible the news of the divorce should come from both Mom and Dad together as a family. During this conversation stress the fact that even though family life is going to look very different, you will both continue to love them.
- Tell the children that the divorce has nothing to do with anything that any of the children may have done or not done. Reassure them that they are not the cause of the divorce.
- Children thrive on structure, especially during transition periods. Keep a daily routine with school, activities, and their regular everyday life. Keeping as much consistency as possible helps the children to feel more secure.
- Having some kind of a plan of what life might now look like for them can be very beneficial. It is comforting for them to know where they will be going to school, where they will be sleeping, and how often they will see mom or dad. Nothing is permanent in this arrangement but offering them some sort of idea of how their lives will and won’t change will again help them to feel secure.
- Address your children’s concerns. Encourage them to talk, scream, cry or celebrate. Help them to feel safe in expressing their feelings.
- Lastly make sure that they are told how much you both love them and how that will never change.
Studies show that children do best and have fewer long term emotional, social or academic problems, when parents can establish a healthy, respectful, co-parenting relationship. Transitioning into a new type of relationship and putting aside the hurt and anger that are associated with the broken marriage can be extremely difficult for many parents to accomplish. But through patience with each other and hard work it can be done. Divorce changes families but it does not end your commitment to your children. Make sure you take the time to find the solutions that work best for your family to ensure a positive outcome for you and your children.
**If you or your children are struggling to deal with the life transitions involved with divorce, seek out professional assistance for individual or family therapy. The therapist can assist in encouraging better communication and helping all families member to properly heal and process the trauma of divorce.
By Brandi Hess, AMFT