Six Healthy Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce

It is not difficult to imagine the difficulty that children often have when their parents get divorced.  Many parents, even those who both want to be involved in the lives of their children and those who truly love their children more than anything else, sometimes have a difficult time figuring out how to make the best out of what is going to be a tough situation all around.  When you are hurting, it is hard to wade through your own feelings and focus on the feelings of your child.  He or she is going to have some very specific emotions surrounding the breakup of your family, but you can help your child work through some of the issues.  You cannot heal all of the pain that your child is going to experience, but you can help him or her to cope with the disappointments and the difficulties that come with divorce.

1. Make sure your child knows that he or she is loved.

There are lots of situations when children will blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.  They think that if only they were better behaved or more fun than their parents would have stayed together.  While you know that this is not true, your child may not.  Continually reassure your child that he or she is the most important thing in your life and that you love him or her.  Explain to him or her that while sometimes adults do not want to be together anymore, that does not mean that he or she has done anything wrong or is not loved.

2. Talk honestly about the situation.

Sometimes parents let children down.  When one parents does not show up at the appointed time, the child will be disappointed.  Even adults make big mistakes.  Let your child know the truth about the situation.  If you do not understand the motivations of the child’s other parents, say as much, but stay away from bad mouthing or talking down about your child’s other parent.  Let your child talk honestly about how he or she feels.

3. Encourage open communication.

It is not just when one parent lets down the child that he or she should be able to talk about feelings.  Your child should be talking to both of his or her parents about the feelings that are coming out of your decision to divorce.  Encourage your child to discuss his or her feelings without anger or yelling, but still with honestly.  He or she should be able to express disappointment, feelings of loss, loneliness, or hurt.

4. Be willing to change the arrangement with your ex to make your child a priority.

Consistency is important.  So working out a schedule with your ex that will allow your child to know when he or she has to be in a certain location can be very beneficial for his or her mental health.  You have to take your schedule and your ex’s schedule into account, but if there are days that are regularly difficult or the schedules do not meld well than you need to rethink your arrangement.

5. Get other adults involved.

If you are lucky enough to have other adults in your life who love your child than you should get them more involved in the life of the child.  Maybe a grandparent or a friend could pick your child up from school one day a week and get him or her started with homework or an afterschool activity.  Other adults can be role models for your child just as you can.  Getting others involved with your child can give him or her an outlet for some of the feelings that are difficult to express to you or your ex.

6. Regardless of your feelings, make the transitions of your child peaceful.

When your child is going back and forth between you and your ex, there is the potential for problems.  Keep in mind the feelings of your child when you are going back and forth.  It is very easy for your child to believe that he or she is the problem if it is these transitions that are causing so much stress.  Do not fight with your ex while you are transitioning your child.  Do not fight with your ex when you are within ear shot of your child.  If you are going to fight, do it in private when your child is elsewhere.  He or she will easily absorb any of the negative feelings that come out of this kind of fighting.