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Helping Children Deal with Divorce

By Jamell Andrews

Divorce is a stressful event for everyone involved. Just because parents are the two individuals who are directly going through the process, it does not mean that the children involved are immune from the negative effects. For the most part, the various reactions that children have to news of divorce will depend upon their ages, temperament, and the specific circumstances that surround the divorce.

To help your children through this process, it is important that you keep the lines of communication open so that you can both help them as they have questions and concerns.

Talking to children about divorce

Children know when there is conflict between their parents. This is true regardless of whether you happen to be going through a divorce or not. Once you and your spouse are sure about your plans, talk to your children about the decision you both have made. If at all possible, both parents should be present for this conversation, as it is important for your kids to see and talk to you both at the same time.

Of course, it is extremely important that you both leave any hurt feelings, blame, or anger out of your tone when you are talking to your children. All children will need continuous reassurance that they are not to blame for the divorce. Even if you both believe that you have alleviated those types of fears with your kids, you should be aware that these feelings tend to crop up on a regular basis, particularly if your children are very young when you divorce.

Older children and teenagers are much more likely to already have a good idea of why you are divorcing, so be prepared for more in-depth questions from them.

Helping kids cope with the changes

Even if your children do not react right away to the news, they are probably going to have a variety of questions for both of you. They will want to know where they will be living, with whom, and if they will still be able to attend the same school and see their friends.

To help your children cope, there are some steps you can both take that will provide them with encouragement and a sense of normalcy.

  • Do not dismiss their feelings – let your children know that it is okay for them to feel sad or angry, but also tell them that things will eventually get better.
  • Encourage them to be honest – you should always let your children know that their feelings are important to you and that you take them, and their concerns, seriously.
  • Offer support to your kids – in addition to asking them if there is anything you can do to help them feel better, consider spending some extra time with them to help them get through the divorce.
  • Be mindful of your privacy – it is very important, particularly in “at fault” divorce situations, that both of you try to keep civil lines of communication open in front of your children.
  • Get professional assistance – if your kids see you taking the necessary actions to obtain help from a therapist or doctor, it will let them know that obtaining help when a person needs it is a positive, healthy thing.

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