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How to Help Children Cope and Feel Loved During Divorce

Divorce Kids

No matter how old or young your children are, seeing their parents divorce is very painful and confusing. Many children silently blame themselves for their parents breaking up or struggle to understand why this is happening to them. It’s important that you understand how to help your children cope with the divorce, so that their pain doesn’t turn into a more serious problem, like depression or self-harm. Here’s what you need to know about helping your children get through the divorce.

Avoid Fighting With Your Kids’ Other Parent in Front of the Kids

Whether you realize it or not, tension between you and your child’s other parent will inevitably transfer to your kids. They will feel anxious, unloved, depressed, and guilty. Even infants are negatively affected by overhearing their parents bicker. Although disagreements are normal, regularly and openly fighting isn’t good for the kids.

If you’re going through a turbulent divorce, it may not be easy to avoid heated arguments. However, it’s important to keep your children out of it as much as you can. Learn to recognize when you are becoming too angry to have a productive conversation, and end it before it gets out of hand. Is your voice getting louder? Is your heart beating frantically? Are your emotions controlling your behavior? These are common signs it’s time to cool off for a bit, before attempting to resolve the conflict.

If conflict can’t be avoided, take the conversation outside or into an office, where the children can’t hear. If the arguing worsens or starts happening more frequently, you may want to consider living in separate homes while your divorce is finalized, if you’re not already.

Remind Them It’s Not Their Fault

Children often blame themselves when there are problems between their parents or if one fails to show up on time for a visit. You can’t force your divorced spouse to be reliable or to follow through with their commitments, but what you can do is reassure your child that it’s not their fault and that adults make mistakes sometimes too. It doesn’t mean daddy or mommy doesn’t love them anymore.

Create a Backup Plan if Your Kid’s Other Parent is Unreliable

One way to minimize the disappointment your child feels if your divorced spouse doesn’t show up for a visit is to have a backup plan. Think of what you’ll do with your child if the other parent doesn’t follow through. While a fun activity won’t replace the time they would have spent with their other parent, it will lighten the mood and take their mind off the situation. In addition to creating a plan for how you’ll entertain your kids if the other parent doesn’t show, you should also plan for how long you will wait before using the backup activity. Half an hour to an hour is usually reasonable.

Show Interest in the Time Your Children Spend with Their Other Parent

Some people make the mistake of staying silent when their kids return from spending time with the other parent. However, it’s better to show the same interest you’d show if they spent the weekend at their grandparents’ house. When you don’t say anything, children worry that you’re unhappy or upset. Worse yet, if you talk badly about the other parent, it will only further drag your children into a situation that has nothing to do with them.

Encourage Them to Express Their Feelings

Divorce is a painful time for children. Just like you, they’ll experience a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the transition. Let them know that you’re there for them when they want to talk and that they won’t be punished or judged for speaking their mind. Young children, especially, have trouble putting their feelings into words. If you notice your child is sad or acting out of sorts, encourage them to talk about what they’re feeling.

Answer Their Questions Honestly

Your kids may ask you questions about your divorce, and those questions may not all be easy to answer. Do your best to answer them honestly and calmly, in age-appropriate terms. Simplify it as much as possible for young children, but be willing to offer more details to older kids. Also, try to refrain from badmouthing your ex-spouse, even if he or she did something terrible. While, in the heat of the moment, it may feel good to get back at your spouse by trashing them to your kids, you only risk harming your children and the relationship you have with them.

If your children are young, be prepared for your child to ask the same questions again, and patiently answer them if they do. One day, it may seem they understand, and the next, they may seem confused once more as to why their parents don’t love each other anymore. If you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to, just say that you don’t know at the moment, but you’ll figure it out with time.

Take Care of Yourself!

One of the most important tips for helping your children cope with divorce is to take care of yourself. In order to be at your best for your kids, you need to look after your own emotional, physical, and mental health. If you’re bottling up anger at your former spouse or drowning in depression, it WILL affect your parenting, whether you realize it or not. You might find yourself snapping at the kids, distancing yourself from their lives, or taking less interest in their activities.

Some quick tips for taking better care of yourself include exercising regularly, eating healthy, and doing fun activities you enjoy. If you’re having a very difficult time, don’t feel embarrassed by the possibility of seeing a therapist. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or that something is wrong with you. It just means you need additional support and a safe space to work through your own feelings, in order to get through this difficult time in your life.

At Untangle the Knot, we know just how hard divorce can be. That’s why we’ve created a resource that you can lean on. We are dedicated to helping parents and their children make it through divorce as stronger, healthier, and happier people. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.