Children of Divorce: Helping Kids When Their Parents Are Apart

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It's important to try to leave feelings of anger, guilt, or blame out of it. Practice how you're going to manage telling your kids so you don't become upset or angry during the talk.


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The discussion should fit the child's age, maturity, and temperament. Most kids will feel they're to blame even after parents have said that they're not. So it's vital for parents to keep giving this reassurance. Tell your kids that sometimes adults change the way they love each other or can't agree on things and so they have to live apart. But remind them that kids and parents are tied together for life, by birth or adoption.

Divorce with a toddler

Parents and kids often don't agree on things, but that is part of the circle of life — parents and kids don't stop loving each other or get divorced from each other. Give kids enough information to prepare them for the upcoming changes in their lives. Try to answer their questions as truthfully as possible. Remember that kids don't need to know all the reasons behind a divorce especially if it involves blaming the other parent.

It's enough for them to understand what will change in their daily routine — and, just as important, what will not. With younger kids, it's best to keep it simple.

How to Support Children after Their Parents Separate or Divorce

You might say something like: "Mom and dad are going to live in different houses so they don't fight so much, but we both love you very much. Older kids and teens may be more in tune with what parents have been going through, and might have more questions based on what they've overheard and picked up on from conversations and fights. Tell kids who are upset about the news that you recognize and care about their feelings, and reassure them that all of their upset feelings are perfectly OK and understandable.

You might say: "I know this is very upsetting for you.

Can we try to think of something that would make you feel better? Not all kids react right away. Some kids try to please their parents by acting as if everything is fine, or try to avoid any difficult feelings by denying that they feel any anger or sadness at the news. Sometimes stress comes out in other ways — at school, or with friends, or in changes to their appetite, behavior or sleep patterns. Whether your kids express fear, worry, or relief about your separation and divorce, they'll want to know how their own day-to-day lives might change.

Divorce: How to Protect Your Child

But telling them what they need to know at that moment is always the right thing to do. Many kids — and parents — grieve the loss of the kind of family they had hoped for, and kids especially miss the presence of both parents and the family life they had. That's why it's common and very natural for some kids to hold out hope that their parents will someday get back together — even after the finality of divorce has been explained to them. Mourning the loss of a family is normal, but over time both you and your kids will come to accept the new situation.

So reassure them that it's OK to wish that mom and dad will reunite, but also explain the finality of your decisions. Consistency and routine can go a long way toward providing comfort and familiarity that can help your family during this major life change. When possible, minimize unpredictable schedules, transitions, or abrupt separations. Especially during a divorce, kids will benefit from one-on-one time with each parent.

No matter how inconvenient, try to accommodate your ex-partner as you figure out visitation schedules. It's natural that you'll be concerned about how a child is coping with this change. The best thing that you can do is trust your instincts and rely on what you know about your kids. Do they seem to be acting differently than usual? Do emotions seem to be getting in the way of everyday routines, like school and social life?

Older kids and teens may be vulnerable to risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, skipping school, and defiant acts. Regardless of whether such troubles are related to the divorce, they are serious problems that affect a teen's well-being and indicate the need for outside help.

Although the occasional argument between parents is expected in any family, living in a battleground of continual hostility and unresolved conflict can place a heavy burden on a child. The divorce rate for that demographic has basically doubled since the s, which means the number of Americans who were older children or adults when their parents split is also on the rise. Here, five individuals who were adults when their parents divorced weigh in on what the experience was like — and how it influences them as spouses and parents. There was no fighting, no trial separations, nothing. To say we were blindsided is an understatement.

Negative impacts of divorce

But apparently our father had been planning it for some time, to the point that he had an apartment set up to go to the next day. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like. What would have been different, you know? The divorce completely altered my relationship with both parents. Growing up, I was really close with my parents.

Adult Children of Divorce: 10 Surprising Facts Parents Might Not Know - Karen Covy

Mom is really sad. Things have gotten pretty acrimonious. Sometimes I think, This is the family I grew up with, where we were always on the river together, doing things together, and it has come to this? And they clearly made some effort to conceal their problems. Having gone through this, I really think people should get divorced if they are ready to get divorced.

Shielding children from unnecessary hurt:

A marriage is a really important, precious thing. My parents waited until my brother and I were both in college to divorce. I always say they should have just done it when we were kids, because they did not have a good relationship. My father was very controlling. His expectation was that the house should be clean and dinner should be on the table by the time he got home from work — even though my mother also worked, albeit from home.

When my brother moved out, my mother left my father. I was old enough for each of them to confide in me, which was extremely difficult and actually led to panic attacks. I think about the fact that how I behave in my relationship with my husband has an impact on my daughter, but I also find it very hard to change my behaviors. My husband and I have a good relationship, but I could definitely do better. I woke up one day to get ready for school and found my mom crying on the couch. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was sick. Maybe there was fear behind it.

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