My kids were still very small when my divorce became final. My oldest was just over two-years-old and my youngest was just days old. This was a blessing in the fact that it lessened the impact the divorce had on them. But to say it didn’t impact them at all would be a lie.
There’s no doubt that a divorce can be a strain on every member of the family. Sometimes it’s tough to look on the bright side and see that it can be the best choice for future happiness.
Children are usually hit the hardest by the divorce. If they’re young, they may not be able to fully grasp the subject. Also, no matter what age they are, their first instinct is generally to blame themselves. The helpful news is that you can do a lot to get your child through this tough time.
Consider some of the following tips for helping your child cope with divorce.
Keep an open dialogue
Talk to your children about the divorce. Even if you have some pent-up feelings about your ex, this doesn’t mean that you should shy away from the topic with your child. The worst thing you can do is act like nothing is going on.
- Talk to your child about their fears.
- Allow them to cry if they need to do so.
- Make sure that you always have an open ear for their concerns.
While you shouldn’t tell your kids about your negative feelings toward your ex or the reasons behind the divorce, ensuring they understand they can talk to you about it anytime is crucial to helping them deal with it.
No one is at fault
Make sure your children know that the divorce is not their fault. They won’t know the true cause of the divorce, so they may turn to blaming themselves. They may even start to believe that there’s something they can do to patch up the problems. Help them come to terms with these feelings. Help them understand that there is nothing they need to do because this is not a problem for them to solve.
Even if you believe someone is at fault for the divorce, it’s important to avoid pointing fingers or showing angry feelings around your children. These actions only cause them to withdraw and internalize their feelings. They feel like they will hurt or upset you if they express themselves.
Both parents still love them
Tell your children that Mom and Dad both love them very much. With all the changes going on in your child’s life, they need to know that one thing — the most important thing of all — isn’t going to change.
As much as possible, make sure that both you and your ex continue to shower your children with love and affection (but remember, that’s not the same as showering them with gifts). Good night kisses and stories can still be offered via video chat, even if the kids aren’t physically present with you at night.
Let them know of changes ahead of time
When major changes for the family are decided, ease your children into these changes. Let them know before the change happens so they have some time to prepare themselves. After the divorce, they’re going to be much more sensitive to change, so allow them as much time to adjust and prepare as possible.
Gradual change is best. When possible, try to make changes slowly so they aren’t overwhelmed by sudden dramatic changes.
Remember that your kids have only ever known having both parents in the same home. They don’t understand visitation or custody arrangements. So it’s up to you to help them understand what life will be like going forward.
Explain the visitation arrangement to your children and tell them when they’ll be able to see the other parent. If one parent won’t see the children for two weeks, for example, be sure the child knows and has time to cope. Avoid blocking the child from seeing the other parent. If you and your ex are able to get along well enough, consider allowing visitation, phone calls, and other contact that goes beyond what’s been ordered in your divorce.
It’s hard to avoid negativity, especially if you’ve been unnecessarily hurt. Always take the high road and think of something positive to say about the other person. This eases some of the tension of the divorce for your child.
This can be especially important if your ex doesn’t do this. If the kids come to you and tell you your ex said mean, hurtful, or untrue things about you or the divorce, you need to find a way to rise above it. Go back to court if necessary to put a stop to it, but don’t put the kids in the middle of it.
Make arrangements for special occasions
Everyone should get consideration when it comes to special occasions like birthdays or holidays. If you think you can be civil, try to share these times with your ex. If that can’t be arranged, divide the time fairly. You can split up morning versus afternoon, or alternate holidays.
Don’t forget about your and your ex’s birthdays too, as well as Mother’s and Father’s Day. Try to allow the appropriate parent to have these days, even if it’s not technically “their” time. It makes better relationships for everyone and creates wonderful memories for years to come.
Divorce can certainly throw off your life’s expectations, but it doesn’t have to negatively affect how you raise your children. Remember their needs, too, and you’ll all persevere through this trying time.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. She helps moms use mindfulness and meditation to create the life they really want. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can also sign up for her newsletter where she offers more insights, tips, tricks, advice, and information to help single moms find purpose, creativity, passion, and peace.
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