Divorce: Help Your Child Adjust

We’ve taken a look at the impact of divorce on children and seen that children don’t function well in the face of this upsetting conflict. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help lessen the harmful affect of divorce to children’s wellbeing.


Conflict Before Divorce
Studies have shown that most of the harmful effects of divorce stem from before the actual separation—they come from the conflict between parents that lead up to the divorce. So what can you do if you still haven’t divorced, but family life is strained by you and your partner’s conflicts? The first step is to see that conflict presents an opportunity for growth. Try to adopt proactive coping strategies for conflict. The next step is to ‘leave the children out of it’—don’t change how affectionate you are to them or how demanding you are of their behavior.

Before and After Divorce
First, reduce your child’s stress by explaining with your partner why you have decided to divorce. Let them know what to expect in the next few months—this ‘heads up’ gives your child some preparation time for the difficulties that lay ahead.

Also, you should reassure your child that they will always be loved. Remember that you need to act on this promise, despite how increasingly difficult it may be for you to stay involved in your child’s life.

Your child will obviously be emotional. Keep a good communication channel between you and your child so they talk about their feelings with you.

There are also several things parents should avoid doing. Avoiding these actions will help your child better cope with your divorce. Never compete with your partner for your child’s love. It’s easier if your child maintains a good relationship with each parent. Never say bad things about your partner in front of the children because it will affect how they view relationships.

Don’t put your child in the middle of fights—being asked to mediate fights is very stressful for children.

Lastly, divorcing couples are usually angry and deeply bitter. Despite your strong emotions, never take out your anger on your child. Children need to feel protected from these negative emotions between parents.

Remember that while it’s hard to follow this advice all the time, you do need to make an effort for the sake of your child.

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