Divorce is often confusing, challenging, and painful for children. However, having parental support through this process can help them develop resiliency and become flexible, well adjusted adults. Here are 5 tips to help smooth the transition and facilitate your child’s adjustment to the new way of life for your family.
1. Plan How to Break the News
According to Nemours, you and your spouse should talk to your child together as soon as the decision to separate has been definitively made. The message can vary depending on your child’s age and maturity level, but should remain relatively simple and be free of your feelings of anger, guilt, or blame. Answer the questions your children have as truthfully as possible.
2. Keep a Routine
Although your child’s life will be changing dramatically, keep his or her routine as regular as possible. Children thrive with familiarity, particularly during times of upheaval, so attending school and activities, seeing friends, and spending time with both parents are all crucial to helping him or her feel safe and comfortable.
3. Present a United Front
Regardless of the circumstances of the split, your children should not be exposed to conflict between you and your former spouse. Parents should avoid badmouthing each other to and discussing conflicts with the children. Don’t use them to carry messages to one another, and avoid prying about what goes on at the other parent’s house.
4. Allow Free Expression
Children should always feel that they are allowed to express their feelings, positive or negative, without fear of recrimination. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, both to you and to other trusted family members, teachers, or friends, and answer any questions they have. Many children benefit from visiting a therapist who specializes in issues surrounding divorce and custody. Let your child’s teacher, school nurse, or coach know about the situation at home so they can also be alert to cause for concern.
5. Be Aware of Signs of Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take time for children to truly manifest the stress of divorce. In the immediate aftermath of hearing the news, he or she will most likely be concerned with practical questions such as where home will be now. But as the news settles into reality, children often regress to outgrown behaviors like thumb sucking, experience separation anxiety, and become depressed or withdrawn. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, consult with a mental health professional.