Perhaps the most difficult aspect of breaking up a family is the impact it has on the children. While they may have been witnesses to a marriage breaking down, that does not make the reality of separation any easier. Children will have to deal with living in two households, adjusting to not seeing both parents together every day, and processing all of the emotions this entails.
We came across a solid article by a therapist who offers several valuable suggestions to parents with children who divorce.
First, do not ignore the children when they ask why their parents are divorcing, but do not get into great detail either. Choose a simple and understandable response, like “sometimes parents stop loving each other.” Reassure them that the end of the marriage had nothing to do with any actions on their part.
Second, allow the children to express themselves freely and do not judge their emotional responses. They will trust you more if you give them the opportunity to vent and share.
Third, do not put the child in the middle of the divorce. Children love their parents and have been raised in that manner; they cannot suddenly stop loving them and they should not suddenly have to be a pawn in an adult game. Do everything possible to assure the children continue to have positive relationships with both parents. No trash talking – no matter how you feel about your estranged spouse emotionally, take the high road and show nothing but positive behavior so that family events can continue, from school conferences to baseball games to holidays.
Fourth, know in advance that you and your former spouse may not run the house in the same manner and give each person space to parent in their chosen manner. If a divergence seems to be creating a problem for the children and their views toward a parent or their ability to take care of the basics – hygiene, education, friendships – parents need to work together to make sure the best interest of the children gets placed first.
These simple but vital guides will really help you help your children through an incredibly difficult and emotional period.
If you have questions about children and divorce, contact us – we can help.