Family Law

Tips on Helping Children Cope with Divorce

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
How to help your children deal with divorce.

Be Present

As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and turmoil of a divorce and forget that your children may be experiencing many of the same emotions. A divorce with children can be especially difficult. Your kids may take the divorce personally and experience grief and sadness over the loss of their two-parent household.

You can help your children by simply being there as a listening ear and providing continuing support. Make yourself available to let your kids talk about their day or simply just cry. Your job as a parent doesn’t change just because you’re getting divorced. Thus, it’s important to remain engaged with your kids, especially when it feels like your divorce is consuming your world, because it’s likely consuming theirs as well.

Be Empathetic

Each child handles stress and trauma differently. Your kid may take news of the divorce in stride or may be completely devastated. Whatever your child’s reaction, you need to acknowledge your child’s feelings. While divorce may be taking a toll on you, your kids can be affected in different ways. Some children may feel like a parent’s love for them is no longer permanent. You may need to reassure your child that you’ll always love them even if you no longer love your spouse.

Be Willing to Seek Help

The wounds of divorce can run deep. Your previously happy-go-lucky child may turn sullen and withdrawn following a divorce. Feeling of sadness and betrayal are normal. However, if your child starts to lose interest in friends, family and previous activities, something bigger might be at play. Seek the help of a licensed professional therapist if you’re worried about your child’s well-being,.

Additionally, if your spouse is abusive or harasses you or your child, it’s important to seek help immediately. You aren’t helping your child by ignoring abuse.

Encourage Your Child’s Relationship with the Other Parent

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges following your divorce will be remaining positive about your child’s other parent. Some parents make it through divorce amicably and continue to have a positive co-parenting relationship. Other times, divorce can take a heavy toll on parents and their ability to get along.

As much as divorce may have destroyed any feelings of love for your former spouse, it’s important keep those feelings to yourself. Absent any signs or history of child abuse or neglect, you should encourage your child’s relationship with the other parent by following your custody and visitation order. For example, if you’re the custodial parent, don’t make it hard for your ex to see your child. Moreover, when your child talks positively about their parent, try to affirm their feelings. If you can’t say something nice about your ex, it’s best to not say anything at all.

Be Confident for the Future

Children often follow their parents’ lead. If you exude confidence and surety that life will get better after divorce, your children may start to feel the same way. Divorce can bring uncomfortable lifestyle changes and adjustments, but you should also let your kids know that your new life can also be good after divorce.

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