Helping Your Child with Divorce

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, August 15, 2018
By Stephanie Gosset, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Back to school season can be stressful for some parents, but it is more complicated when you are going through a separation or divorce. A separation or divorce is a highly tense and emotional experience for everyone involved. For kids, divorce can feel like an intense loss. This loss can be expressed as sadness, anger, resentment, and grief.  

Witnessing the dissolution of your parents’ marriage and the breakup of the family can be a traumatic experience, and can often feel that your whole world has turned upside down. Although it may seem hard, it’s possible to cope with divorce and have a good family life, in spite of changes this difficult situation may bring. While it is normal for a child to grieve the break up of the family, there’s plenty you can do as parents to make the process less painful for your child.

Here are some tips as to how parents can help their children deal with divorce:

  • Tell your children calmly the facts of the situation in a way they can understand. Be certain that the facts are not too detailed or graphic. Both parents should participate in the talk when announcing the divorce to their children.
  • Allow your children to ask questions and answer these questions honestly. However, do not let your feelings about your ex-spouse influence your answers.  
  • When you don’t know all the answers, be truthful. 
  • Encourage your children to communicate. Talk with your children and allow them to express their feelings. A child is entitled to their feelings and should be able to talk about them. Offer your support and comfort by letting them know you understand and that their feelings matter. 
  • Be careful not to project your own feelings onto your kids. Children have the right to love both parents, and they should not be exposed to the negative feelings you may have about your ex-spouse.
  • Try to keep your conflict with your ex-spouse in control. Do not put your kids in the center of the conflict.
  • Reassure your kids that they are not responsible for the divorce and make it clear they are loved and valued. Children who are confident in the love of both parents adjust better.
  • Keep the promises you make.

  • Demonstrate a united front as your kids get back into the rhythm of the school year.
  • Provide clear rules and limits and use consistent discipline at both households.  
  • Try to establish a routine and a consistent schedule so kids know what to expect. Your children can gain security from a consistent schedule at both homes. 
  • Keep open communication with your children’s teachers. Let them know your family situation and arrangements so they can help your child navigate through the changes.
  • Take care of yourself. It is important to nurture not only your children during a divorce but yourself as well. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be very helpful to your kids. Take advantage of your support group and accept offers of help.  
  • Seeking help from a therapist who has experience working with divorcing families can help with your own divorce-related emotional struggles. Children can also gain a great deal from talking to a therapist on their own. They often are freer to express feelings they think might hurt their parents. 
  • Please remember that dealing with loss is a process; do not put pressure on your children to quickly cope with the situation. Furthermore, remember that a process has a beginning but not necessarily an end. Based on the above, be sensitive to your kids changing needs. Time, love and reassurance will help them in their healing process.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can help make your divorce easier on your children. You can provide them with comfort in an already difficult situation as they get ready to go back to school.