Divorce is hard on you and your ex, but it’s also difficult for your children. Everyone in the family will feel a major amount of stress and anxiety during the divorce because it represents such a large change to how things were done before. It can have a traumatic effect on your kids, and sometimes, you might not even realize just how much it is affecting them. After all, you are going through a lot right now, too. Helping kids to deal with divorce is something that needs to be gracefully approached because they might not know what exactly is happening and why, which could cause issues in their futures.
Explain the Divorce and Answer the Kids’ Questions
You don’t want to spring a divorce on the children by having one of the parents suddenly move out of the house one day. You need to explain that you are getting a divorce and the sooner you do this the better. It can be hard to break this sad news to the children, but you don’t want to wait too long to do it.
Expect some tears and for the kids to go through the stages of grief. After all, this is a major change for them, and it is essentially the loss of their current way of life. The kids are likely to have quite a few questions, too. They will want to know if they are going to have to move, if they will need to go to a different school, when they will be able to see the other parent, and more.
You might not have answers to all of these questions right now, but answer whatever you can, and keep the kids updated. Of course, you also have to think about the age of the children when you are telling them about the reasons for the divorce. You don’t need to get into the specifics of why you are getting divorced. You can keep this relatively simple.
Of course, you also need to make sure the kids realize that the divorce is not their fault. Many kids feel responsible for divorce, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. Make sure your kids know that they aren’t to blame for anything.
Divorce brings conflict between you and your spouse in most cases. However, just as conflict can cause stress to rise in you, it will do the same for the kids. Their anxiety levels will rise, and they will often feel depressed over what’s happening. The more fights and arguments they are witness to, the worse it will be.
You and your spouse need to realize that this can cause damage and undue stress on the kids. Always try to reduce and eliminate the conflict whenever possible. It’s going to be better with helping kids to deal with divorce. Sometimes, this means keeping quiet when you would like nothing more than to yell at your spouse and tell them how you feel.
Don’t Criticize the Other Parent
You are likely upset with your ex for a host of reasons. Maybe they aren’t good with money. Maybe they were adulterous or mean. They could have any number of serious faults that you dislike. However, regardless of how you feel about them, you shouldn’t badmouth them in front of your children.
This puts the kids in a strange position. They feel as though they have to take sides, and when they take sides, they feel as if they have betrayed the other parent. This can cause them to feel guilty.
Even when your kids say something about your ex that matches up with what you think about them, you have to be careful about what you say. Don’t try to make the other parent the bad guy. You wouldn’t want your ex to do that, and you can be sure that these things are going to stick in your children’s minds for years to come.
Don’t Make the Kids the Messengers
Here’s one of the unfortunately common issues that crop up with divorces. When the kids transition from one house to the other, parents might try to use the kids as messengers. In some cases, such as “Say hi to your father,” it’s not a big deal.
However, we know that these messages usually hold a bit of anger in them, or they are things that you don’t want to talk with your ex about directly. Making the kids the messengers, though, puts them in a bad position. They don’t like delivering messages that might make the other parent upset.
Both you and your ex are adults. You need to find a way that you can communicate with one another without trying to put the kids in the middle of things.
Let Your Kids Talk About How They Feel
Talking with the kids about the divorce is not a one-and-done conversation. They will have more questions, and they will have times when their emotions get the better of them. This could be expressed with tears, anger, acting out, etc. but it’s one of the best ways of helping kids to deal with divorce.
They are having trouble understanding and handling those emotions. You want to keep the lines of communication open with the kids, letting them express how they feel. You will find that the next tip on the list will help with this problem quite a bit.
Get the Kids into Therapy
Therapy that is age-appropriate for your children can be great for them. They can better learn how to deal with what they are feeling and learn how to express themselves. They can talk about their problems and worries with someone they won’t worry about upsetting. It can be good for the kids to go to therapy during the divorce, and even for the first six months to a year after the divorce.
Divorce isn’t easy for anyone, but you can make things a little easier for your children by following the tips above. They are going through a lot of stress, and they don’t always know how to express themselves. Expect them to act a bit different from normal and pay attention to the things they are doing and saying. Let them know that you are there for them and that things might be rough right now, but it will get better and they will adjust.