JAN 18 2012 / Help your children cope with your divorce
What will help my child through this divorce?
An estimated one in four children experience divorce before they reach 16. Fortunately, many families manage the rollercoaster of feelings and emotions and children adjust to their changing family over time, but for some it can prove overwhelming and devastating.
Parents sometimes underestimate the impact of divorce on their children but will want to minimise any long term effects and help them come to terms with what has happened.
So how do you break the news to your children? Try not to pretend ‘it will be alright’ –it may not in their eyes, or make promises that you will find difficult to keep - “nothing will be different” or “you can see mum/dad whenever you want to”. What you say will be dependent on your children’s age but ask yourself if they need to know the full details of your relationship breakdown?
Avoid blaming your ex partner, this won’t help your children come to terms with their feelings OR do your relationship with them any good in the long run.
Don’t ask children to choose between you, take sides, or be go-betweens; they may have divided loyalties or even worry about you. Just keep it simple; let them know it wasn’t their fault and that they are still loved by you both.
Listen without taking sides or stressing your point of view. They may see things quite differently and may need to express their anger or sadness by directing it at you! They may show you they still need you by regressing slightly, being more clingy, needing more reassurance than usual. Be patient, they too need time to adjust.
Encourage them to be honest about how they feel and if this is too difficult a conversation for you, then encourage them to talk to someone you and they trust.
Let them ask questions. Some may be obvious, some bizarre – “where will I live? What happens at Christmas? Will I have to move?” They may make assumptions based on what has happened to friends or even what they have seen on the telly.
Let school know what is happening at home; you are warning them that your children may be upset, confused and may need a little more patience and understanding than usual. They can alert you to signs that your kids are behaving unusually or appearing not to cope.
For the majority of children, maintaining a relationship with both parents helps them come to terms with what has happened. Deciding how to parent when you don’t live together may mean accepting that different houses have different rules, values and routines. Try to keep disagreements between you and your ex private and stick to agreed arrangements and commitments. Keeping communication respectful will show your children that you can put them first and help them adjust, accept and move on.
You can get more tips from our book, Help your Children Cope with Your divorce, R.R.P £8.99