Going through a divorce is not only trying on you and your spouse, but more than likely will affect your children in a major way. There are ways for you to help prepare them for the changes to come and deal with their new lives going from one parent to another, without scaring them.
Telling Your Kids About a Divorce
The best policy is honesty when talking to your children about your divorce. Experts suggest sitting them down with both you and your soon-to-be ex and discuss the divorce as a family unit. First and foremost, you want them to understand that they are not the reason for the divorce. This means that you and your spouse may need to swallow your differences for the time being and explain that you still love your kids very much, but have decided not to stay married.
Second, make sure the discussion is age-appropriate. If the kids are very small, you may just try to get them to understand you won’t all be living together all the time. If they are older, they likely know what divorce is and you need to be upfront and honest about the fact you won’t be staying married to their mother/father.
Helping Your Children Deal with a Divorce
Supporting children after divorce can be a daunting task, but working with your ex to help them through the transition and emotions they’ll be feeling is vital. You have to double your efforts if one of your children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Make an effort to have open and honest conversations with them regularly about how they feel about their new home, school or town. Ask them for feedback, how they’re coping with the changes and what they need from you.
Every child is different, and some will need more emotional support and time with you to adjust. Others will internalize their feelings (especially older kids) and might need you to back away to give them space. You just need to make sure they aren’t filling the void with dangerous or damaging activities when they aren’t with you or your ex.
Working with Your Ex
You and your ex must keep the kids at the top of your priority list and make sure you’re both doing everything you can to help. If you are simply separated and final arrangements haven’t been made, it’s best to try to divide time with the children evenly, and even try to spend time with them individually and as a family unit. Just because you aren’t going to be married anymore doesn’t mean you aren’t still a family!
Whatever you do, do not talk negatively about your ex around your children. Your ex is still your child’s parent. Trying to tarnish the image that your children have of their other parent will only hurt your relationship with them in the long run.
Consider Professional Help
Did you know that 50 percent of all children in the U.S. will witness their parents’ divorce and 40 percent are being raised without their fathers? Other statistics about children and divorce show that children of divorced parents are more likely to experience physical injury, asthma, headaches and speech defects. 70 percent of long-term prison inmates came from broken homes and a 1991 study discovered that even six years after a divorce, children still tended to be lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure.
Even if you and your ex get along beautifully when you’re not married and do everything in your power to include the children and make them feel loved, you should still consider professional counseling for them. Sometimes kids won’t discuss all of their feelings with their parents but can more easily open up to another adult who makes them feel comfortable.
Any change in normal behavior, such as sleep patterns, emotional ups and downs, loss of interest in activities, changes in grades or general behavior at home can hint that your children may need the help of a professional to get through the process of divorce. Changing such a big part of their support system can send them reeling and wondering where to find their new “normal.” Consulting a professional can help them learn to deal with those changes and become happy, healthy adults regardless.
This is a guest post contributed by Sophie Wright.