Going through a divorce is never easy, but it’s especially difficult if there are children involved.
Children are not old enough yet to understand all the complexities that surround a divorce decision. All they know is that their world is changing, and that they won’t get to see both parents as often as they would like.
If not handled properly, a divorce can cause significant emotional distress for children of all ages, which can then have long-lasting impacts. Here are some tips you can use to help your child cope with the divorce in a healthy way.
Take Care of Yourself First
Before you break the news to your child, you should make sure you’re in a good place to do so.
Having that conversation when you are stressed out, or emotionally unavailable for your children, is not a good idea. Some things you will want to do before having that conversation with your child are:
- Talk to your partner about the best way to approach things going forward. Being on the same page will help you approach the subject better.
- Figure out a plan for what life will look like after the divorce so that you can give your child definitive answers
- Retain the services of a lawyer. A good lawyer will help to remove a lot of the stress from a divorce and ensure everything runs smoothly. You can visit https://www.ljacobsonlaw.com/pa/divorce-attorney-harrisburg/ to learn more about how a divorce attorney can help you.
- Get your mind in a stress-free place. Go for a walk before you have the conversation or spend some time doing yoga.
Do whatever it is you need to do to clear your mind, as you don’t want to bring any negative energy into an already difficult conversation.
Breaking the News
Once you are in a better frame of mind, it’s time to break the news to your children.
Unless your kids are already nearing adulthood, they likely will not understand what is happening. If possible, both parents should be present for this conversation and try to match the tone of the conversation to the age of your child.
When breaking the news, you should always include one important message: this isn’t the child’s fault.
Let them know that this is just an issue between mother and father and that they did nothing wrong. Kids often feel guilt when there is a divorce, so it’s important that you get this message across early.
Be prepared for a range of emotions and try to keep yours in check. You don’t want to get overly angry or upset during this conversation. Let your child feel however they want, then you can release your own emotions later when you’re on your own.
Prepare Answers to Common Questions
As you’re breaking the news, or in the time following it, your children will likely have some questions. You should have answers for as many of them as you can, so that your children feel a sense of security. Some questions you are likely to get include:
- Who are we going to live with?
- Where are we going to live?
- Will I have to change schools?
- What will happen on the holidays?
- Am I still going to be able to do my favorite activities and see my friends?
- How often will I get to see Mom/Dad?
Jot down some answers before you break the news and keep them in the back of your mind should they come up. There is enough uncertainty surrounding the divorce for your child and you don’t want to add to it by being unable to answer their questions.
Help Your Children Cope
There are a few coping strategies you can use to help your children during this time. For starters, always encourage that they are honest with you about their feelings. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to feel sad or lonely.
Another thing you can do is simply ask your child how you can help them feel better. Sometimes they may think of a simple solution to an issue that you hadn’t considered. Do your best to accommodate them during this troubling time.
Finally, keep yourself healthy. Exercise, talk to a therapist if needed, and eat right. Managing your own stress will prevent you from fighting with your spouse in front of them or taking out your anger on them.
Adjusting to a New Life
During the processing of the divorce, and immediately after, there will be a significant change in your child’s life. When possible, you should introduce these changes as gradually as you can.
Always keep the focus on your children and what they need. For example, while you may want to have your kids every weekend, you may also need to let them stay with their other parent some weekends so that they can see their friends.
Adjusting will take time for everyone, but if you keep the focus on your child’s needs, you’ll get through it.