Divorce can be difficult on everyone, but the challenges are ten-fold when there are children in the picture. Children are the ones who often end up suffering the most as a result of divorce. This can be because no one has explained to them what’s happening, or even worse, they feel like they’re stuck in the middle between their parents. Support for children when there is a divorce is, in my professional opinion, what should be at the top of the priority list for the parents moving through the process of changing the family’s structure.
If parents are conscious about ensuring the children receive the right kind of support and work to make the process go as smoothly as possible, divorce doesn’t have to have the negative effect on your children that it will otherwise. It’s all in how you approach the situation. (There are affiliate links in this article which lead to revenue us when purchases are made).
5 Kinds of Support for Children When There is a Divorce.
1.Talk about it as a family with age appropriate approach.
It’s not an easy thing to do but preparing for when, what and how you are going to explain to your children about the changes to your marriage and the effects on the family is important. You should never burden your children with the nature of the adult relationship problems or your own negative feelings about the other parent, but if you and your partner have decided to split, you need to come together to help the children understand. You can allow them to ask questions, and make a co-parenting plan for moving forward that your child is included in and not just told about later. Getting everything out in the out open and letting them know that it you will be both ensuring their lives are not turned upside down is a good way to teach your child about healthy and open communication. Don’t over-explain. Keep it age appropriate and as simple as possible. Make sure your children feel welcome to express any and all feelings they may have now or later.
2. Be clear that it’s not their fault.
When it comes to divorce many children will believe it’s somehow their fault – and whether they voice this or not, it’s something they often harbor inside and it can really affect them now and in the future. It’s extremely important that you and your partner let your child know that this is in no way their fault and that you both love them very much. For young children I recommend the book Was it the Chocolate Pudding? Reading with children books about divorce the are at an age appropriate level provides enough emotional distance for children to be able to get an understanding of what is happening in their family and if they can hear stories about children who had feelings of wondering if it was their fault they can be reassured.
3. Reassure them that they don’t need to choose.
Another common issue during a divorce where children are involved is that they feel like they have to choose between the parents, and this is simply a burden that no child should ever have to bear on behalf of their parents. If you think that your child will or is feeling this way or, worse, if your child has said things to cause you to worry about what to do when your child runs away from home because they can’t stand the pressure they feel of believing they have to choose one parent over the other, this is something you’ll need to talk with them about and ensure that you and your partner are on the same page. Loyalty conflict is a very real and damaging experience children go through when the feel pressure to have to choose one parent over the other.
4. Never disrespect the other parent in front of your child.
If you want to show your child what a healthy divorce looks like and what healthy relationships look like, then the worst thing you and your partner can do is to be disrespectful or speak badly of one another in the presence of your child. You have to remember that your child loves both parents and doesn’t need or want to hear your negative words about each other – even if you feel these things, then keep them to yourself or voice them when your child isn’t around.
5. Go to your own individual therapy and get co-parenting counseling.
One of the greatest ways to provide support for children when there is a divorce is for the parents to take full responsibility for the fact that going through a divorce brings out the worst in people often times and getting a professional in place to support you individually and together in co-parenting counseling will go a long way. Attorneys help you with the legal and financial divorce but they are not equipped to help you with the emotional divorce See counseling or professional relationship coaching services. Don’t go it alone. I’ve seen to many times over the years otherwise emotionally healthy adults come undone and turn on one another during divorce proceedings. Your children deserve better.
While I no longer provide counseling or psychotherapy for children and families divorcing, I train and provide consultation for therapists on how to help families going through divorce. Contact me for further information.