Divorcing parents often worry about how the changes will affect their children. It’s important that parents work together to minimize any deleterious effects their decision will have on their kids. Below is some helpful information for helping them cope with these changes.
What should we tell the kids about our divorce?
If you can manage to tell them together, it’s usually best. Choose an appropriate time and place and don’t overwhelm them with more than they need to know.
Make sure that the kids understand that mom and dad both love them and that will never change. If they seem worried that they won’t see one parent very much anymore, stress all the different opportunities they’ll have with both parents.
Younger children often feel that this somehow is their fault, that if they had just behaved better, got better grades or fought less with their siblings their parents wouldn’t be splitting up. Explain that adult problems caused adult decisions to be made and none of this is their faults.
What can parents do to make these changes easier?
Make sure that you and your soon-to-be-ex have already hashed out some preliminary custody and visitation arrangements before addressing this with the children. Uncertainty will only make them uneasy and insecure.
Be honest about the changes. If a move is imminent, the kids need time to mentally adjust to these changes. The older the child, the more input he or she should have into the living arrangements. For tweens and teens, changing schools or circles of friends is a double whammy along with the divorce. Be supportive of their decisions if they want to remain with their other parent in their old home.
Parents should never speak ill of the other to or in front of the children. There are no circumstances where this is appropriate. Never try to isolate your kids from their other parent or undermine their parental authority. Maintaining relatively consistent rules in both households preserves a sense of continuity and lets kids know what to expect.
If you see troublesome signs develop in your children, ask their pediatrician or your divorce lawyer for a recommendation for a good child or adolescent counselor they can see until they get over the rough spots.
Source: Canadian Paediatric Society, “Helping children cope with separation and divorce,” accessed Aug. 26, 2016