How to Help a Child Deal with Divorce

By: Sue Atkins

How to Help a Child Deal with Divorce
I've worked with many parents going through divorce. One of the main worries is how to tell their children about what is going to happen, what to actually say to them and how to help them deal with divorce.

Presenting a United Front When
Telling the kids

  • When a marriage becomes troubled, couple often relies on their old habits of interacting. The same one that lead to fights and eventually their divorce instead of solutions.
  • If these old habits didn't lead to constructive solutions during the marriage, they'll surely reap no better results during the divorce.

Effects of Divorce on Children
You may not have been a united front while married, but you and your partner must take this opportunity for the good of your children to work together.

Children naturally fear that they'll lose one of their parents in divorce or that their parents will abandon them. They also fear the changes and disruptions that divorce inevitably brings to their family. Children often blame themselves.

Activities to help children cope with divorce.
Key messages you want to convey to your children?
One of the let things I ask parents to do is to work out together the answer to these critical question:

  • 1) Your child's need to feel reassured that you will both always be his parents and be there to support, nurture, guide, and love him.
  • 2) Your child's need to express himself and his feelings ? this may include silence,anger, denial, bravado, or pleading.
  • 3) You need to weigh up whether each parent tells each child separately, or all together. If you can manage to speak to them together, this gives and opportunity for them to see that you're not blaming each other, that they don't have to take sides, and that you're both still there for them.
  • 4) Think about the sort of questions your children are likely to ask. ?Will we still see you and spend time with you?' ?Who will take us to football training?' ?Who will we live with and where will we live?' ?Will we have to change school?' ?Will we still see Grandma?' You need to explain that at the moment you don't have all the answers but reassure them that you'll have more clarity and answers soon and they don't need to worry.

From your child's perspective
Now as a parent, answer the following questions as if you were their child

  • What do you see and hear around you at the moment?
  • How do you feel?
  • How could Mum and Dad make you feel better?
  • What could they do or say?

From the answer you gave
Write 7 Reassurances and Guarantees

Write seven reassurances and guarantees that they can honestly give to their child in a graphic wheel. The reassurances and guarantees are things that will help their child cope with the enormous changes that are coming.

Be honest don't hedge around the difficulties. Don't give false promises that you can't keep because you destroy their confidence and belief in you at a critical time in your relationship. Give them information but not too much give details of things in the not-too-distant future.

Work together!
Develop Co-parenting strategies. 

  • Plan and agree on what you both will say before you talk to their children. This helps to avoid mixed messages, which can confuse and really distress children.
  • Look at the benefits of telling the children together or individually.
  • Work on overcoming the blame' mentally and the feeling that the divorce must be someone's fault.
  • Look for ways to avoid making children feel that they must take sides.
  • Try to take the emotional charge out of telling the children
  • Help each parent gain more control over his or her distressing feelings and emotions during this difficult moment.

It is helpful to remember that divorce changes but it does not end a family. Your children are now members of two unique and individual families with all the positive experiences that this can also bring to their lives. It's about your positive and confident handling of the situation that will make all the difference.

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