6 Things You Can Do To Help Your Child Through Divorce
How to make divorce easier on your child
Getting divorced is not easy. It’s a long process of unraveling all of the strings tied together in all the years you were married. If you have children, this time can be especially confusing. This is because you aren’t sure how they are feeling or how to handle the situations arising. You feel guilty because you feel like you put your children in a mess of a situation. You are not alone. Everyone that gets divorced feels the same way. There are things you can do as a parent to alleviate this feeling of guilt and help your children adjust better to their new “normal”. Here are 6 ways you can help your child transition into this new phase of their life.
1) Tell your children that you are divorced
I know this sounds a little bit difficult. The thing is that when you’re getting divorced, your children feel confused, and don’t really understand what is happening. Sometimes they hold onto hope that the relationship will resume again at some point. A clear simple conversation stating that both mom and dad are no longer married, but will always love them and be in their life forever is a good start. Ask how they feel about this. Reassure them that you love them and that you will always be in their life no matter what. Explain to them that you will now have 2 homes. And both homes will be their home. These things help the child understand the situation better and will ease any uncertainty they may feel.
2) Reassure your children it is not their fault you are divorced
Sometimes children get the notion that it’s their fault their parents are getting divorced. They think that if they would have fought less with their sibling or been more obedient, their parents wouldn’t have gotten divorced. Reassure your child that it is not their fault. Reassure them you love them and that you will always be there for them. Never tell them the details for your divorce, simply reassure them it wasn’t their fault in any way.
3) Never talk negatively about your ex-spouse
You must never bad mouth your ex-spouse. To your child, your ex-spouse is their parent, and despite any harms of offenses they may have caused you, your child continues to love them and depend on them as their parent. Bad mouthing your spouse makes your child feel uncomfortable and confused. The expression “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” is a perfect motto to live by when it comes to your ex-spouse and your kids. If you are venting about them, do it when the children are sleeping or at their other parent’s house, but never in front of the children.
4) Minimize conflict between you and your ex
Keep the exchanges between you and your ex very non-confrontational. Don’t argue in front of the children. They are already confused and worried and the least thing you want to happen is that feel afraid too. If your ex-spouse is confrontational, calmly explain that you will not have a discussion in front of the children, and walk away. Keep drop-offs and pick-ups as smooth as possible.
5) Establish a routine
Children thrive on routine because it helps them feel safe. When you are first separating from your spouse, your child feels very much out of control. Giving them a structured routine helps ease their anxiety. If they tell you that things are done differently at their other parent’s house, use this time to explain they now have two homes and these are the expectations for your home. You may receive resistance at first, but in the long run, the home that is more structured with a routine is the home that will feel the safest to the child. The routine doesn’t matter, so long as it’s consistent.
6) Be open to therapy
Taking your children to therapy is always a good idea. Sometimes communication is hard or feelings are too difficult to express, and a trained professional is the best answer. Psychologists and therapists are armed with skills and techniques to extract feelings and communication through play or the right sets of questions. Sometimes despite all our efforts, this is the best course of action and it is perfectly OK. Keep in mind that in many states both parents must consent.
Remember that despite what occurred between your ex-spouse and you, the children are usually in the middle. Try and make them feel as if everything is normal and hasn’t changed too much. Talk to them a lot, reassure them a lot, keep their home feeling safe and secure. This is the key. Their security and safety is always paramount.
Zimmer, Mathiesen and Associates is a compassionate family law firm, specialized in divorce in Suffolk County sensitive to the needs of children. If you or anyone you know is going through divorce, feel free to contact us. We work closely with many local therapists, specialized in adjustment after separation to help make divorce easier. Click here to get directions to our law office.