Life After Divorce: Helping Your Child Cope
Depending on the circumstances, talking to your children about a divorce can be awful. Children have a natural inclination to take on too much fault or blame during a divorce. Communicating with them and letting them communicate with you can help them cope. Here are five ways to get started:
- Give them a safe space to express how they feel. That means you can’t react if you don’t like what they say--not in the safe space. Let them express themselves. Obviously, they need to be respectful, but allow your children to ask questions, vent, cry, Don’t try to fix the problem at that moment. Listen and offer support. This will help them begin to process their grief.
- When you divorce, your kids will have questions. Answer them as honestly as possible (too much or too little information can be a problem as they form their opinions and identity). Most importantly, make sure they know they are loved by both parents and that the divorce had nothing to do with how much they are loved
- Watch your language. A child is a combination of both parents. Hearing negative talk about the other parent hurts them. When discussing the other parent, be sure you child is not within earshot.
- Make them a part of the change. Divorce can make children feel helpless, powerless. Try to involve them in some aspects of the change. Ask their opinions about new places to live, new family traditions, and let them help decorate the space. When you give children the chance to be independent but involved, it helps them feel as though not everything is out of their control.
- Help them when they face perceived rejection. Sometimes the other parent drops away from the relationship. This hurts the child. Be sure you let them talk to you about their feelings, but also have a contingency plan. If your ex fails to show for visitation, have plans made with your child beforehand. It helps take the power away from the disappointment, and lets the child know that while it hurts, you are there for them.
In order to thrive, children need stability, structure, and to know they are loved unconditionally. Be open to discussions and listen to their concerns. Teach them to have boundaries, and support them. Divorce is difficult in any situation, but when children are involved it adds another area to assess and plan.
It’s about to get better. We’re here to help.