Thousands of children experience the sorrow of divorce each year, and parents can do specific things to help them through the process. The experienced attorneys at KoonsFuller Family law can help parents navigate the difficulties their children will experience during a divorce.
Of course, how each child’s reaction depends on their distinct personality, his or her age, and the specific circumstances of the separation and divorce process in your family. Every divorce will affect the kids involved–there’s no way around that. The initial reactions during the first year are often similar to the grieving process as children cycle through some of the following feelings: shock, denial, sadness, frustration, anger, anxiety, and finally acceptance.
The good news is that children can also come out of divorce with better coping skills, more flexibility, and more tolerance for the struggles of others. You can help your children move on with these enhanced skills by frankly telling them the truth without being long winded, by saying, “I love you” frequently, and by honestly preparing them for the big changes ahead, We all do better when we’re psychologically prepared for changes, and children often have confusing gaps in understanding that you can fill with honesty and love.
Some of the most important things mental health experts agree that parents can do to guide their children through this difficult time are among the following:
- Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from the children–no matter how hard it is.
- Provide family traditions your kids can rely on, and remind them that they can count on you for stability, care, and structure.
- Maintain a working relationship with your ex if at all possible.
- Protect your children from the stress and anguish that comes with watching parents in regular conflict.
- Confine negativity and blame to your professional therapy or talks with friends–outside the home.
- Seek professional help for your children, too. Family counseling can be very helpful in giving your children a safe place to discuss their worries.
- Regularly remind them that the divorce is absolutely not their fault.
- Remind them that THEY are not responsible for fixing things, and that there’s nothing they can do to change the outcome. It sounds harsh, but they need to understand that the divorce is real, and that they can’t change that.
- Children’s books about divorce can be very helpful in helping YOU know how to talk about this topic and to encourage them to talk, as well.
When custody fights are fierce, the process can be even more damaging for children, and a professional attorney who specializes in custody law can also provide excellent advice for how to protect children from the emotional fallout. Adults going through separation and divorce usually need support, too— from mental health professionals, close friends, experienced family law attorneys such as those at KoonsFuller Family Law, clergy, and family members whose council your trust.
Final advice. Don’t seek support from your kids, even if they seem to want to provide it. This puts them in a terrible position. Seek support from professionals, and take one day at a time. Soon, you’ll be on the other side of this process and beginning a new life.