Divorce is often full of bitter recriminations and finding fault. While this is difficult for both parents to go through, it is even harder for children, especially if they hear you fighting over them. They think they have done something wrong and are the cause of the divorce. Then they have to cope with feelings of guilt as well as the anxiety and despair of their parents divorcing.
It is essential to help your child cope with divorce if they are to come out of it relatively unscathed. Sometimes it takes years for a child to get over their parent’s divorce and if they are young at the time they will suffer a great deal throughout their life unless you take charge of the situation to help them. Here are some tips to help your help your child cope.
- Tell the truth about why you are getting a divorce, but simplify it for younger children.
- Try and agree with your spouse about what you will tell the children. If they get a different explanation from each it will leave them confused.
- Hide your own anxieties from the children.
- Never use a child to get back at your soon to be ex.
- Don’t say mean things about your spouse in front of your child. Remember they love you both.
- Keep to their usual routine. Try and get your ex to agree to this when the children visit him.
- Don’t lean on your child for support. Get counselling or talk to friends.
- Don’t allow your child to hear you talking about your ex to friends.
- Explain clearly how things will be different, but don’t give too much detail.
- Do not expect them to take sides. Tell them that you both still love them.
- Help your child express how they feel and don’t dismiss their feelings.
- Physical closeness can help your child feel loved, even just a pat on the shoulder.
- Reassure your child that although things will be different, they will still work out.
- If the lead-up to your divorce was filled with rows and arguments, point out to the child that life will now be a lot more peaceful.
- Try and find something to laugh about, or do something different with your child that they will like, just to get their mind off feeling sad.
Take care of yourself, because if you fall apart you won’t be able to help your child cope. Have a good diet, get plenty of sleep and undergo counselling if you feel in need of it. In this way you will be able to be calm and in control when your child is present.