Helping Children Cope with Divorce

Divorce is hard.  It usually brings chaos and uncertainty into the lives of everyone involved.  But while for adults it’s the first step in resolving problems and moving forward, for the children in these marriages, the divorce often seems like the end of their lives.

Parents should always remember that while they have divorced their ex-spouse, the children have not divorced one of their parents.  Since kids are often overwhelmed by a sense of loss, it’s important to reinforce the idea to the kids that their family isn’t gone, it’s just changed.  They might not see mom or dad as much as before, but that doesn’t mean that their parents won’t be in their lives.  Divorced parents should make an extra effort to have quality time with their children.  This is especially important for the noncustodial parent.  Each parent must remember that their time with their children isn’t just a right, they also have a responsibility to their kids.

It’s also important to try to maintain a civil partnership in relation to parenting.  Even though there’s conflict and anger between the divorced couple, helping children cope with divorce means putting these feelings aside at times.  Kids need to know that decisions made by one parent will be enforced by the other one, just as things were during the marriage.  The parenting relationship doesn’t have to be friendly, but it should at least be businesslike.  Even when parents aren’t trying to pull their children into a fight, constant conflict adds to the stress that kids feel.  Children should never be forced to choose one parent over another or to choose a side in an argument.  A parent should never complain about their ex-spouse to the children or use the kids as a communication go-between.  The adults should act like adults and should let the kids be kids.

Children often feel adrift following the break-up of their parents – all of their support structures are gone.  Divorced parents should make sure that they talk with their kids about their feelings, no matter how hard it might be.  They should also let the children know that the divorce is final.  It’s very normal for kids to hang on to the hope that their parents will get back together and being firm will help the kids come to terms with the divorce as well.  It’s also important for both parents to let the children know that they were not the cause of the divorce.  Kids need to know that they are still loved by both parents.  Divorced parents should let their children know that although it might not seem like it at this moment, things will get better.

While divorce is always a time of painful change, parents should always remember that while they’re dealing with anger, resentment, and hurt, they’re still the main source of emotional stability for their children.  It’s very important for divorced parents to remember that while they’re no longer a couple, they will always be mom and dad to their kids, so they should always try to be parent-partners for their children’s sake.

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