Divorce – Helping Children Cope

If you’re going through a divorce, no doubt one of your biggest concerns is how it will affect your kids. Telling your children that you’re separating and trying to help them through it is no doubt one of the toughest things any parent will ever have to do. At Robert Wood and Associates, our family lawyers have more than 35 years of experience in divorce and family related legal matters and can assist you with every aspect of the process. Divorce is not easy for parents or kids. Here’s some advice on how to help your children through this difficult time. 

How Do Children React to Divorce?

All children will react differently, however the way a child reacts and adjusts to news of a divorce is often dependant on their age. During the first year post-separation, toddlers may have heightened separation anxiety, regress in toilet training and language skills or develop eating or sleep problems. Pre-schoolers may have similar issues, but since they may not fully understand that the change is permanent, they might ask for the parent they don’t see as often, or become more demanding or defiant. Primary school aged kids may blame themselves for the divorce, make attempts to get the parents back together, have nightmares or act out.

Ways to Make Separation and Divorce Easier for Children

Break the news together

For that initial conversation with the children, ideally both parents should be present and explain the situation in simple terms. Calmly explain that sometimes adults don’t want to live with each other anymore. It’s essential that you reassure your children that both parents will always love and protect them and both will continue to be an important part of their life. Make sure you explain that it was an adult decision and it had nothing to do with them or anything they did, reassuring them that it’s not their fault.

Don’t paint the other parent as the villain

Avoid blaming or talking badly about the other parent, no matter how angry you are. Children love and need both of their parents and they need to feel both of their parents are valuable. Never try to sway your child to “your side.” They can easily experience a loyalty conflict and feel badly and this will deter an open dialogue.

Don’t fight in front of your kids

Heated conversations should never take place in front of your children. If discussions regarding finances or other issues are needed and are likely to become heated, save these for a phone call when your kids aren’t around. Research has found that the most poorly adjusted kids of divorce are those exposed to ongoing parental battles.

Stick to a routine

The more you can keep daily routines the same, the better. This will give your child a sense of calm and order. School drop-offs and pickups, extracurricular activities, visits with family and friends, and bedtime should remain as normal as possible.

Aim for peaceful transitions

No matter how upset or angry you may be, you need to be calm and civil at changeover. If you truly can’t, it might be best for your ex to collect your child from neutral ground such as at a friend’s, at school, or at a shopping centre. That way you can leave for your car when you see your partner arrive. 

Talk about emotions

Listen to your child and let them know it’s okay to feel sad and disappointed. Don’t downplay their pain and sadness, explain that it is normal to feel sad and angry about a divorce. Offer your support and comfort by letting your child know you understand, and that his or her feelings matter. Encourage your kids to have an on-going dialogue with you and demonstrate that you accept any feeling they have. Sometimes kids keep their feelings inside because they do not want to upset you so check in with them frequently by asking how they are feeling.

Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but it can be especially tough on children. It’s vital your children continue to feel loved by both parents and that both parents work hard to create a stable and calm environment. Getting the help and support you need, and following a few simple tips can help make the transition as smooth as possible.

If you are looking for an experienced and compassionate family lawyer in Wantirna or surrounding Melbourne suburbs, get in touch with the team at Robert Wood and Associates today. Whether you need lawyers for child custody arrangements or a family lawyer to finalise your family and financial matters, our team is here to help. Contact us online or call (03) 9762 3877 to make an appointment today.

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