Thousands of couples experience the stress associated with getting a divorce. The American Psychological Association states that out of the 90% of people who get married, close to half of them result in divorce. Yes, those statistics are alarming but out of the percentage of divorces, how many of those divorces do you think involve children?
Studies have shown that on average, 6 out of 10 divorces involve children. The sad part about that statistic is that when parents get divorced, the children have feelings of guilt, thinking it’s their fault. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that in a child’s feelings of guilt, they’re also terrified and confused about their own security, worried about who they will live with.
Whether you’re a parent currently going through a divorce or taking steps to file for divorce, it’s very important to make sure that you do everything in your power to make your children a top priority during the process. Regardless of how nasty or stressful the process gets, it’s very important to not put that added stress onto your children.
To make your divorce go as smoothly as possible for your children, these are the best things you can do to help children cope with divorce.
Don’t Fight or Speak Badly of Your Ex-Spouse in Front of Your Children
One of the most important things you can do to help children cope with divorce is to not speak poorly of your ex in front of them. It’s pretty normal for parents to go through arguments and disagreements but when your children are living on a battlefield of conflict with no resolutions in sight, it’s best to reserve those heated discussions for a time when the kids are not around or save them for a counselor to mediate. Heated arguments in front of the kids make them feel worried and it really just scares them.
Also, just because you and your ex-spouse aren’t getting along, that doesn’t give you the right to speak negatively about them in front of the children. Both of you are still their parents and they don’t want or need to hear anything negative about their parents coming from either parent.
Be Honest About the Situation
Honesty is the best policy in this situation. Your children need to know what exactly is going on because there will be a drastic change in their life. You need to find a good balance between telling them the truth and not telling the nasty and hurtful details, but the last thing you want to do is sugar-coat anything or give false hopes that you and your spouse could get back together in the future.
In being honest about what’s going to happen in the divorce, you also want to assure them that they are loved regardless of how everything going on. This is very important because as we discussed earlier, kids sometimes have feelings of guilt thinking the divorce is their fault.
They sometimes think that if they would have been a “good boy or girl” this wouldn’t have happened. Assure them that it’s not their fault and to not worry about that. Giving them that assurance and peace of mind will ease their minds and take the stress of blame off of them.
Encourage Your Children to Communicate and Express Their Feelings
Once you break the news to your children about the divorce, they initially may not quite understand what that means and the type of changes that will occur so encourage them to ask questions and express how the news makes them feel.
Knowing that the home will be split, they may ask you questions like these:
- Who will I live with?
- Where will I live?
- What school will I go to?
- What about my friends?
- Where will I spend the holidays?
Honestly answering these questions can be quite daunting for the parents especially if you don’t know all the answers at that moment when the questions are asked. The best thing you can do is tell them what you do know and let them know that you’re working out the details of everything else.
Smile When They Visit the Other Parent
A third way to help children cope with divorce is to smile when they visit the other parent. When your child leaves to visit the other parent, make sure you give the appearance that you’re glad they’re going to spend time with their other parent (even if you’re not happy about it). Parents, especially mothers, tend to unconsciously make the child feel guilty about visiting the other parent. It’s very important to make sure that neither parent does this.
Take It One Day at a Time
Remember, divorce is something new for your kids and it could be something new to you as well but however the cookie crumbles, divorce is no easy task whether it’s your first one or third one. When going through it be sure to pay close attention to your children and how they’re handling it. If you feel they’re not handling it too well, you may need to seek counseling for them. It may seem like the end of the world for them but as long as they embark on that journey holding your hand, they will get through it… one day at a time.