Divorce is challenging and overwhelming for family members, particularly children. Here are 8 tips to help your child through this stressful time:
1. Keep structure and consistency. In the midst of chaos, a regular, predictable schedule is comforting and provides security. Rules and expectations need to be upheld during this difficult time.
2. Be business partners. You may not like your ex, however, you are still on a parenting team. Do not let your children hear or see you fight. Be as civil as possible and if civil is impossible, have someone who can be neutral be in charge of transitioning to the other parents’ home. If you can, present as a parenting unit any information about your divorce including changes or outcomes.
3. Play nice. Speaking negatively about the other parent will eventually reflect badly on the person dishing the dirt. When a child hears a slam on either parent it hits their sense of self worth and creates loyalty divides.
4. Divorce is an adult issue. Children have an tremendous ability to make things their fault. This is a time when parents need to be very clear that divorce is caused by adult problems not children. Repeat this message often. Kids need to hear it.
5. Demonstrate resilience. Even if you don’t feel strong, find the strength to be a family leader and conduct yourself with integrity. When you are sad or mad, let them know that you can take care of yourself. An example statement would be, “I feel sad so am taking a bath to help myself feel better.”
6. Let kids be kids. Do not ask children to deal with adult problems or issues. Children cannot control relationships, money troubles, or parents’ stress. When they are given adult information or brought into adult problems, they start to feel helpless and insecure.
7. Let children know that any feeling or thought they have is okay. Encourage kids to share and stay open to what is said. If they are experiencing an intense emotion, help them come up with a plan to feel calm. This allows children to have their feelings validated and builds confidence each time they find their own solutions.
8. Give choices. Many things are outside children’s control during a divorce. Whenever possible, let children have age appropriate control over their day. Children can decide between snacks, what they wear (within reason), or if they brush their teeth or put pajamas on first.