How to Help Your Child(ren) When Going Through a Divorce

For children at any age, having their parents go through a divorce can be a very stressful, sad and disorienting experience. While this type of reaction is normal and expected, there are ways parents can help children cope during this tumultuous process. While divorce is never easy for anyone involved, these strategies will lessen the burden for your children and help resolve hardship that may come up later in life.

Talk About the Divorce
Once the decision has been made to file for divorce, parents should explain their plans to divorce together in a clear and concise manner. If possible, both parents should inform their children of the divorce and why they are going through with the process. It does not need to be an elaborate explanation (i.e. avoid blaming one parent for the divorce), but just enough to let them know that they will expect some change. It is best for parents to have this conversation jointly to prevent side conversations and confusion. It is important to reassure children that this decision is for the best and the divorce is not their fault.

Encourage Open Communication
It is important to encourage children to ask questions or speak up if they are unsure how the divorce will play out. For younger children, they might not fully understand what is happening, so it is easier to keep things simple when questions come up. Older children are typically more cognizant of problems in their household; however, parents should be aware of any mood changes and establish an ongoing dialogue to let children know their feelings are valid.

Stick With Daily Routines
Consistency is key when helping children through a divorce. While change is inevitable, parents should minimize disruption to their children’s routines in order to provide a familiar and comfortable environment. Once parenting time has been finalized, parents should sit down with their children and discuss how time will be split among both parents. This will help them prepare and understand what to expect, while also giving them a sense of stability.

Keep Legal Talk Private
It is imperative for parents to keep the legal details of the divorce private with their ex-spouse and/or family law attorney. When children are present, parents should remember to be respectful to one another so as not to cause anxiety for their children with heated interactions.

Divorce is difficult for anyone involved, but extra care needs to be given when children are part of the picture. The points listed above are a few ways parents can help their children cope during a divorce. Parents should also consider engaging a child therapist who specializes in divorce and separation to guide them and the children through the process.