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Helping Kids Through Divorce

Going through a divorce can consume your life. You essentially have to go from living as a family unit under one roof, to learning how to live separately. For a couple with no children, this new reality can be daunting and the spouses will likely need some extra support from friends and family to get through it.  For a couple with children, it is almost as if there are extra people getting divorced.  The lives of these children will be uprooted, as their day-to-day reality will be forced to change.  From not seeing both parents every day to possibly changing homes and schools, the children of divorcing parents are also going through the divorce.  As such, it is important to offer your children some extra support to help them through what will surely be a difficult and life-changing event in their lives.

A recent article listed 10 the following tips for reducing the long-term negative impacts of your divorce on your children.  Remember, Your Children Are Going Through This Divorce Too, by Michelle Crosby, May 6, 2014, huffingtonpost.com.

  1. Give them a routine they can count on. – A regular schedule can really help a child going through a life change such as divorce.  Keep them in their same extracurricular activities, if possible.  Tell them when they will see each parent.  Make a calendar for older children so they can anticipate how each week/month will go.
  2. Do not speak negatively about your spouse to the children.  – Yes, you are getting divorced for a reason, but your children likely do not need the gory details.  Whether you like it or not, both parents will remain in the children’s lives and you will likely run into your spouse at an extracurricular activity, recital or graduation.  There is no need to add to the awkwardness and drag your children into the middle.
  3. Reassure the children that the divorce is not their fault. – It is common for children to think that their misbehavior, in some way, contributed to their parents divorce.  Be very clear and tell your children that the divorce has nothing to do with them, and only to do with you and your spouse.  Even if you think they already know this, it doesn’t hurt to mention again.
  4. Make extra time for your children. – Give them a little extra attention, whether it’s reading a few more books together or just sitting and talking. Make sure they know that you are still there for them.
  5. Play. – Spend time just having fun with your kids.  It doesn’t always need to be heavy discussions about the divorce and upcoming changes. Show them that you are still a fun parent.
  6. Show appreciation of your spouse. – This can be difficult, but it’s important to foster the relationship between the children and the other parent.  Even something as simple as thanking your spouse for taking the children to their extracurricular activities can go a long way in the eyes of your child.
  7. Encourage quality time with both parents. – As mentioned above, it is very important to foster the relationship between your children and their other parent.  Show interest in what your children did during visitation time with the other parent.
  8. Talk to the children about the divorce with the other parent. – Discussing the divorce all together shows that you put the children first.  It will also give the children the sense that everything is out in the open and you are not hiding anything from them.
  9. Give them a sense of control. – Let them make age appropriate decisions about their schedule (i.e. bed time, when to do homework, etc.).  Having a sense of control over a small part of their life can help counteract the other changes.
  10. Let kids be kids. – Kids can feel like they have to grow up quickly to protect their parents during a divorce.  Even if you are having a hard time coping, don’t bog down your child with your issues.  Talk through everything with a friend, family member or a professional, if necessary, and let your kids enjoy their childhood.