Help Your Child to Cope During Divorce

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Lynn

As a parent, you need to help your child cope during divorce, and you can do this by developing your plan as their parents until they reach legal age and manage on their own. This can be very difficult for you, especially if you are going through a contentious divorce, but you just need to find a way to put your past behind you and learn to move on in a positive manner. Try to learn from this experience and strive hard to be friends, for the sake of your kids, if nothing else.


Here are some tips on helping your kids deal with the situation to avoid making your divorce a sad and traumatic experience for them:

On Breaking the News

  1. 1
    Both of you need to participate
    It's crucial for the kids to know and understand what's going on. It's heartbreaking for them to just wake up one morning and find out their mom or dad has left. Situations like these make kids worry, and they're afraid that one day the remaining parent will also leave. If possible, you and your spouse ought to break the news to your kids together, and plan out beforehand how you are going to do this.
    1. The things you are going to say, should be done at a time when the entire family is together, like at dinner.
    2. The important thing is that the two of you participate. Be honest with them in saying you have decided to separate, but that it won't change the fact that you will always be there for them and that you love them very much.
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  2. 2
    Do not use complex language
    Make it easy for them to understand by using words and explanations that are as simple as possible. Even if toddlers are not aware of the term "divorce", they will still understand when you tell them that mom and dad won't be living together anymore. Also bear in mind that they don't have an excellent grasp of time, so rather than tell them you'll see them in one week, just say you'll see them a lot.
    1. Kids involved in divorce often wonder if they had anything to do with the divorce - if they committed something wrong that drove their parents to their wits' end.
    2. So make sure you make it perfectly clear that it has nothing to do with them, and that it is strictly between you two.
    3. Be specific about the things they need to know, like where you'll be, when you'll be leaving, and when they will see you again.
    4. Also, they need to know whether or not they will move and whom they will be living with.
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  3. 3
    Explain why you need to go through this
    Kids need an explanation and they deserve to know the truth. Not that you will tell them point blank about infidelity issues, if there are any, but the emotions involved, how you are no longer happy with each other, how you have tried to work things out but figured going separate ways was the best thing to do.  
    1. Do not make this a time for blaming each other for your mistakes.
    2. You just need to give your kids some logical explanation to help them understand and get through all this without them feeling it's their fault.
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  4. 4
    Agree on a parenting plan both of you can stick to quickly
    Once your kids know about the divorce, the next step is to reassure them that you have concrete plans on how the two of you are going to take care of them.
    1. Those couples who remain friends despite their separation can sit down with their kids and discuss these things together.
    2. There are those, however, who are so overwhelmed with their own thoughts and feelings that just the thought of being with their ex in the same room is revolting.
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  5. 5
    As for your kids' legal custody, the law requires making decisions about your kids' education, health care, religious upbringing, and so on in legal custody
    1. As part of the divorce procedure you will have to choose; otherwise the court will decide for you, whether one of you will have sole legal custody or you will have joint legal custody of your kids.
    2. The latter is much better, if possible, because you get to make decisions together.
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  6. 6
    On your kids' physical custody
    The actual time you get to spend with your kids is called physical custody. If the two of you will continue to share the hands-on care of your kids, this is called joint physical custody. There are parents who divide their responsibility by actually dividing their kids, as in one parent takes the younger kids while the teens get to stay with the other.
    1. This is otherwise known as split custody. Neither psychologists nor the courts generally agree that this is good for the kids.
    2. Keeping all the siblings together is almost always the best decision you can come up with, even if it may be a bit challenging for both of you as parents.
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TIPS in Dealing with your Kids' Anger and Confusion

  1. 1
    Expect the boys to act differently than the girls
    Studies have shown that kids of divorced parents react differently. Boys tend to be more stubborn and aggressive, especially when it comes to household rules. The reports show that boys find it more difficult to deal with their parents' separation.
    1. Even boys who belong to intact families are found to be more resistant to authority and more demanding of their parents compared to their sisters, and they are more likely to get into a lot of trouble. All of these negative behaviors can be further intensified by the divorce.
    2. Girls, on the other hand, tend to deal with their pain quietly, on the inside. They try to do everything they can to make sure that their parents do not leave as well. Oftentimes, they fantasize about their parents still being together. Even if they may seem bossy and moody in school, they just use this as their coping mechanisms to let out their hurt and frustrations from deep inside.
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  2. 2
    Consider therapy for children to help them cope
    A lot of kids whose parents are going through divorce end up in therapy. The parents are too overwhelmed themselves to help their children, or aren't sure how to comfort them, so they seek the help of therapists. They usually do this when their kids' behavior becomes extremely difficult or worrisome during the divorce process.
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  3. 3
    Never, ever make your kids feel alienated
    It's hard enough as it is, but when you as a parent engage in behavior that will alienate your kids from the other parent, that will be even more frustrating for them. Never, ever make your kids pawns during divorce. Some parents will do everything they can to get their kids' sympathy and get them to take their side so they can use this as a leverage against the other parent. Frankly, this is downright wrong and pathetic. Remember, these tactics you use to alienate your kids from your partner will be very problematic in the long run, and will likely backfire on you.
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Helping your child cope during divorce is not easy, but it's not that difficult either if you truly love and care for them, and they remain your highest priority. Remember, you may no longer be husband and wife, but you'll still be their parents for many years to come, so you might as well be great ones.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Categories : Parenting

Recent edits by: Nerissa Avisado

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