Any child faced with the situation of separating and divorcing parents can feel a wide range of emotions including anger, sadness, frustration, and confusion. Many times children can lash out at one or both parents. During this transition, their emotional state is fragile and a divorce, even when not bitter, can cause them to question the reasons for their parents’ separation. Although children generally tend to adapt and adjust to change, when their living arrangement is altered and they are introduced into a new home, the adjustment period can be extremely difficult for the children. As a parent, there are some very important things to keep in mind to help you and your kids cope with divorce and the changes that divorce will bring to their lives.
Telling Your Kids About the Divorce
Keep your children informed throughout the process of divorce. They are more aware than they let on and know when things are different. If your relationship isn’t abusive, having a conversation with both parents may be a great benefit. This is an opportunity to explain to the children the impact of the divorce, assure them that they are not the cause, and explain how both parents will continue to co-parent. Not having a conversation with your kids can be detrimental to their adaptation to their new living situations. At some point even the most mature child will have difficulty and develop frustration in understanding what led to their parents’ decision to get divorced.
When speaking to your kids about divorce, the most important thing is to be honest. Being open and telling them the truth is helpful so your kids can begin coping with the situation. This doesn’t mean telling them any information about the specifics of the demise of your marriage (especially if it involves adultery or abuse), but they should be told generalizations, such as you and your spouse aren’t making each other happy when together and you both would be happier apart, or that you just don’t get along anymore. Always remind your children that divorce is no fault of their own, that both parents love them very much, and will do all that they can to make the changes less difficult for them.
Reiterate that you are open to what questions they have or, if they are confused, to ask you and not assume anything. I also recommend that clients get their child in some form of therapy, especially if your children are not willing to engage in any type of conversation with you about the divorce. Either because of anger or simply they are just not ready to speak with you about it your kids may not feel comfortable talking with you. As a parent, you must ensure that they have someone that they can openly speak with that will help them through the process (maybe a teacher, coach, mentor, or other family member). The most important thing is that you are open with them and they have someone they can speak with about their feelings.
Listen to Your Kids and Look for Signs they are Struggling
One of the easiest ways to help your kids cope through the divorce is to listen to their feelings and concerns. Letting kids voice their feelings and letting them know that their feelings are valid tells them that they can count on their parents to listen and not judge them. It is important to stay neutral about their feelings. They might be unhappy with you or your spouse, but it’s essential to not feel the need to defend yourself or apologize for your co-parent. If you feel you cannot remain neutral, don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Therapists, teachers, counselors, coaches, and mentors are good third parties for kids to vent their feelings with. You are ensuring that their feelings will be heard and validated and you won’t have the stress of thinking that what you’re saying is wrong or coming off in the wrong way.
Remember when going through a divorce, you will have ups and downs, and it is normal for your children to experience the same. Whether your divorce is amicable or highly litigious, never bad mouth your co-parent, don’t fight in front of your children, and make note that your kids are still kids and should enjoy their childhood. The children should not be brought into the divorce and made to choose sides. Speak with your kids, make sure you are open and available, listen and look for warning signs that they are depressed or struggling. Things in your family structure will definitely change for you and your children, but by following these tips, those changes don’t have to be bad and can have a good impact on the overall well-being of your children after your divorce.
Divorce Attorneys in Maryland
For additional advice regarding divorce, visit our divorce and family law FAQ. Going through a divorce is never easy, but neither is holding together a marriage that is clearly falling apart. Whether the decision to pursue divorce is reached as a result of irreconcilable differences, adultery, mental illness, domestic violence, or even conflicts over how children should be raised, divorce is sometimes the only path to a better life. At the law firm of Andalman & Flynn, we always impress upon our clients the idea that divorce is as much a new beginning as it is an ending. Contact us to learn how we can assist with your divorce.