Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Getting Divorced? How To Help Children Through It

There was a time when divorce wasn't nearly as common as it is today. I'm not going to wax nostalgic about the 'good old days' when I was a kid, but I remember when it was unusual for someone in my class to have divorced parents. Now it seems unusual to have parents that are still together! Even if the statistics on divorce have changed, it can still be a difficult transition for children. Shuffling between two different houses, hearing parents argue, not having the whole family at the dinner table, not being tucked in at night the way they were before-all of these things take some getting used to. It can seem to them as though their whole world is falling apart and need your help to get through it. Here are some ideas about how to give your children the help they need to get through your divorce.

Sometimes children don't understand that the ending of a marriage doesn't have to mean the ending of the family. This is especially true if one parent is with someone else right away. The child might think, 'Daddy left us for Cathy because he doesn't love me anymore'. Even if Daddy tries to spend time with the children, there still may be tension. Explain to them that Daddy left you, not them. You don't have to go into gory detail, but explain that the relationship the parents have with each other is completely different and separate from their relationships with the children.

Another thing children might do during a divorce is blame themselves. 'If I'd only kept my room cleaner, Daddy wouldn't have left.” “If we washed the dishes and did better on my homework, Daddy would still love me.” Thoughts like these aren't uncommon. As I said before, reassure your kids that the breakup was between you and Daddy, and not due to anything they did or didn't do. You may not love each other anymore, but you still love the kids. You're probably going to have to repeat this over and over again, but that is normal. It's going to take some time for the kids to adjust, and they may need constant reassurance. Be patient and forthcoming with that reassurance.

This probably seems obvious, but make an effort to get along with your ex. Do not bad-mouth him in front of the kids and do not argue where they can hear you, especially about things relating to them. If you do, they might feel like they did something wrong and that you are mad at them. Speak to each other directly rather than having the kids pass messages back and forth. If you can't say anything nice to or about him, don't say anything at all. If you can't be around him without being angry, limit your contact with him until you can. Otherwise the kids might feel 'caught in the middle' and think they have to choose between the two of you. Also, don't 'lean on' your child for support, even if they want to help. They might start to feel resentful of the other parent, and that's not fair to anyone.

I hope I've offered at least a bit of help in terms of how you can help your kids get through a divorce. It's a tricky situation that sometimes requires professional help, so don't be afraid to seek it if you need it.

It might not seem like it right now, but things will get better. You're going to be alright.

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