Divorce can be a messy, heartbreaking process for more than just the spouses. Families, children, homes, and even daily routines are disrupted and affected when two people part ways permanently.
Sometimes parents put off divorce for the sake of their children. They don’t want a broken family or to put their kids through the emotional stress that divorce can bring. While I don’t encourage divorce, sometimes divorce is what people choose to address the problems in a marriage.
There is life after divorce and people can go on to live thriving, successful lives. We have worked with many individuals and couples and counseled them successfully through the divorce process.
Here are seven ways you can help your kids deal with this difficult time and get them through the divorce.
1. Explain the divorce together and clearly
It can be helpful if both parents sit down and talk with their children about the situation together. You don’t need to tell them every detail, but be clear about what is happening and how it will affect them. You can say something like, “mom and dad fight a lot and so they are going to live apart for a while.” Regardless of your children's age, keep it short and simple.
2. Make sure your children know the divorce is not their fault
Some children feel responsible for the divorce, thinking their behavior played a role. Reassure them through the process that the divorce has nothing to do with them and isn’t their fault. Let them know that both parents love them very much and there's nothing they did to cause this divorce.
3. Get your child in counseling
Parents aren’t the only ones who need counseling during this time. Children may not know how to express their feelings and may need help processing through their emotions. Offer to go to counseling as a family, or they can go alone if they wish. Finding a counselor who can help your family through this difficult time can be instrumental in minimizing damage and helping everyone’s healing process.
4. Don’t fight in front of the kids
After you and your ex split, it’s important that you keep fights out of where the children can see or hear them. If children witness fighting during this time, it will only add to the hurt, confusion, and frustration that they are likely feeling. Also, be careful what you say about your ex in front of your kids. Hearing you say negative things about their mother or father puts them in the middle needing to pick sides.
5. Allow guilt-free visitation
Don’t make your kids feel guilty when they go off to visit dad for the weekend. Time spent with both parents is important. Sometimes, one parent can unconsciously impose guilt on a child when they are leaving to be with the other parent. Send them off with a smile and plan a fun activity for yourself during this time so you have something to look forward to.
6. Establish fun, new traditions
Many of your old family traditions won’t stay in tact after the divorce, so start creating new ones. Make the most of your time with your kids, especially if you will be sharing custody with your ex. Try starting a pancake breakfast on Saturdays, or make Friday night movie or game night. Giving the kids something exciting to look forward to can ease some of the pain during this time. These new traditions also serve to build connection at a time when the family is being torn apart.
7. Understand that children may act out
Whenever there is a transition at home or school, children may regress or have acting out behavior. Keep communication lines open with your child and give them the opportunity to express themselves freely. Children need extra support to get through this hard time, so be around and available.
While divorce can be an extremely confusing, difficult, and emotionally turbulent time for children, keeping their best interests in mind can go a long way in their healing process. With proper communication, good counseling, and a lot of extra love, children can get through this time and move on to lead happy, healthy lives with both of their parents.