How to help your child go through a divorce
As a parent, there’s nothing more important than your child’s happiness and health. There’s no reason either of those need to suffer during divorce. Each family is unique, but by using a few of the guidelines and strategies below, you can help your child go through a divorce as smoothly as possible.
Guidelines for Approaching Divorce
Whether your child is on their best behavior or lashing out, the stress that accompanies divorce can bring out a different side of their personality. Take time to discuss how they’re feeling. Here are some tips to help your child go through a divorce.
- Don’t use your child as a messenger. In the beginning, every interaction with your co-parent may be difficult. It can be tempting to use your child to manage back-and-forth communication. Find a different way, whether it’s phone calls, texts or written notes until face-to-face conversation improves.
- Don’t use your child as a spy. Showing an interest in what your child does when you’re not around is normal, but be careful not to cross the line by asking unnecessary questions. It’s not your child’s job to report to you about who your ex-spouse is dating or the condition of their house.
- Get help. You don’t have to do this alone, and neither does your child. Consider family counseling or communication coaching as a natural part of your divorce. Support from friends and relatives can also help your child go through a divorce with less stress.
- New isn’t always better. While it may be tempting to go on a shopping spree and fill your child’s room with new toys, children find great comfort in the familiar. Make sure they’re able to choose some of their favorite toys, clothes and other personal items to keep at each home.
- Share healthy coping strategies. Talking about your emotions and sharing coping strategies sets your child up for a lifetime of fulfillment. If the family is feeling stressed, go for a hike. If everyone is crabby, make some popcorn and watch your favorite comedy.
Strategies to Help Your Child Go Through a Divorce
Each person in your family is unique. Parents often discover that what works for one child doesn’t work for the next. You and your co-parent will need to use age-appropriate and child-specific strategies to help your child go through divorce.
- Be consistent. Simple things, like having your child’s favorite cereal available or continuing a movie night tradition, can have a big impact on their sense of security.
- Maintain a routine. Your toddler is most concerned with their daily tasks. If you and your co-parent establish a bedtime routine, try to continue it at both homes.
- Avoid insults. Speaking negatively about your ex-spouse doesn’t make life easier for your child. Keep communication open and neutral, so they feel comfortable talking with you if they need to vent.
- Offer reassurance. School-age children often have a fear of abandonment, so constant reassurance from both parents is needed. Explain that you will always love them and that the divorce isn’t their fault.
- Set limitations. Setting up clear and consistent boundaries between homes can be very reassuring, even if your kids don’t want to admit it.
- Encourage socializing. At this age, friends are crucial to helping your child go through a divorce. Encourage them to continue participating in extracurriculars, sports and other organized activities.
- Model appropriate reactions. This will set the stage for how you expect your teen to behave, even when they’re going through a difficult time. If you storm out of the room and slam doors when you’re upset, they may do the same.
- Take a breath. Outbursts and avoidance are common reactions to divorce. Don’t take your teen’s behavior personally. They’re still learning how to cope with their new situation.
Collaborative Divorce is Family-Focused
Collaborative divorce professionals can help you and your spouse customize your divorce. It’s a unique way to approach divorce and prioritize your family’s goals. During the process, you can practice respectful communication skills that will serve you throughout your life. Most importantly, you can help your child go through a divorce with fewer fears.
Contact Best Legal Choices to learn how collaborative divorce can help your child go through a divorce.
Michelle was born and raised in Indiana, where she developed a strong will and a deep love of learning. When tragedy struck close to her through the suicide of a close friend who felt powerless, Michelle was moved by a desire for justice and fairness for people who are powerless.