Divorce, regardless of the circumstances, pulls apart a family unit. It takes time to absorb and impacts everyone involved, especially your children.
You want your kids to be okay, to bounce back and enjoy their childhood. Eventually, all of that can still happen. Just as long as you equip yourselves to be excellent supporters of their needs at this time.
Consider the following tips to support your children through your divorce as they cope and adjust to their new normal.
How to Support Your Children Through Your Divorce
Encourage your children to communicate openly
Communication is critical if you want your kids to, eventually, be okay. This process will be tough for them. And there’s no way of knowing exactly how they are affected without allowing them the space and time to tell you. Even then, you must give them permission to feel their emotions and express them honestly.
Accept that they may be inclined toward anger, confusion, and sadness simultaneously. Or they may behave as if nothing is wrong at all. Their feelings may change on a dime. Prepare yourself to help them manage the ups and downs.
Your role is to listen and hear them out. Ask questions that invite sharing and resist the urge to dismiss, lecture, or fix. The truth is that your divorce does affect them, let them tell you how. When they do share, make sure they know that your love is unconditional.
Maintain as many routines as possible
Why? For two main reasons:
- Divorce is a loss. Kids need the comfort of routine. Sometimes something as simple as the daily ritual of bathing and brushing their teeth will help them feel less lost and unsettled by a future that looks so different now. Their longing for the way things used to be may be soothed by certain meals, morning habits, etc. Moreover, you can help your children see that life hurts sometimes, but love and family go on.
- Kids need consistency to ease transitions. If at all possible, try to keep kids in the same home, school district, and afterschool activities. If you can’t, do what you can to keep the look and feel of their lives as familiar and “normal” as possible. For example, if your ex reads the bedtime story, arrange to do that via Facetime on the days they aren’t together.
Recognize too, that changes to the schedule may be upsetting, alert kids as soon as possible when things shift. Give them a voice to express their concerns and ideas as well.
Support positive relationships with the other parent and extended family
As you extricate yourself from your marriage, it can be easy to forget that your children aren’t being extricated from their relationships. The other parent and their family members are not your children’s “ex” anything. Grandparents remain grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles are still the family that they love and want to engage.
Regardless of the state of affairs for you and those family members, speak kindly and encouragingly about them all. Make sure that your children have no doubt that your ex-spouse is still their loving parent. Recall funny memories and stories that include your entire family often. Encourage excitement and anticipation when planning to see their other parent.
For their sake, the primary aim is order, stability, and genuine harmony to support them moving forward.
Share your kids… but don’t put them in the middle
Even the most amicable divorce should take care not to make middlemen or go-betweens of the children. Adult needs, communications, arrangements, etc. should remain two-way conversations, with no kids involved.
In the same vein, handle conflicts out of earshot or via text, preferably where they are not aware of any intense conversation.
Kids take a lot on themselves. You don’t want them to perceive that the demands of co-parenting are too much for you and your former partner. They may see that as somehow their fault. You also don’t want them to feel that they must spy for you, choose sides, or suppress their own emotions to keep either parent calm or happy.
Do your best to remain self-aware and instill confidence in your ability to remain mature, guiding forces in their lives.
Consider Child Counseling
No matter how you try, you won’t be able to keep your children from feeling the impact of your divorce. Even on your best behavior, their lives will change, the divorce will hurt. They will crave stability, understanding, acceptance, and honesty.
You can still give them what they need, but do understand that their needs are changing. Maybe more than you can realize on your own. This is not a reason to beat yourselves up.
You simply need the appropriate support and guidance to do what needs to be done, at the appropriate time. For a little while, that may mean sessions with a knowledgeable and experienced therapist.
Your child may need time away from both parents to say things that, they think, might hurt your feelings or surprise you. Or, they may just need a safe place to get their confusing thoughts out of their bodies and heads. That’s what child and teen counseling is for.
Take the next step…
You’re a good parent going through a tough time. Your children are going through it with you. You can make it.
Let a therapist help guide you and your family through this new, uncharted territory. You aren’t alone and you won’t be judged. With support, self-compassion, and some solid parenting tools, you can all come through this transition period stronger and closer. Please read more about how therapy can help and contact us soon.