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Advice for Divorcing Parents

A storyteller-researcher who focuses on the prevention of mental disorders and substance abuse among children, youth, and young adults.


Managing Children's Emotions

Encourage kids to express their opinions about what's happening, whether they're positive or negative.

Parents who are divorcing or who have previously divorced need to sit down with their children and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. But don't let this affect how you feel about yourself. Guarantee your children that their emotions are meaningful, genuine, and acceptable. Let them know that you are capable of handling a discussion about any topic, including one that is upsetting or hurtful.

Do not attempt to solve problems or change a child's feelings during these discussions. Instead, pay attention, and congratulate them for being honest. Children typically experience a loss of family and may hold you or the other parent — or even both — responsible for the events taking place in their lives. You must therefore be prepared to respond to any questions or concerns your children may have.

Make it a habit to discuss your divorce with your children and how it is affecting them. Kids who are older and more mature may have concerns or worries that they hadn't previously considered. Keep the conversation going even if it appears like you've covered the same ground previously. Sit down with the other parent if at all possible and make a plan for how you will discuss the situation.

Ask someone else to speak to your children (a relative, perhaps) if you think you might become overly emotional. While it's normal and good for children to see their parent's sadness or anger, becoming emotionally unstable can cause them to feel responsible for those emotions.

If your kids do see you struggling with a challenging emotion, try to be a good example of healthy coping. Try to:

  • For them, express your feeling ("I'm feeling sad right now.").
  • Describe how you know it's OK to feel this way occasionally (It's normal and OK for me to feel sad).

"Something that usually makes me feel better when I'm unhappy is baking cookies with you or playing outside," you might say. Let's get started!").

Children naturally experience a wide range of emotions in the midst of a divorce. They might feel bad and think that they are to blame for the issue. This is especially true if children overheard arguments between their parents concerning them. Children and teenagers may experience feelings of rage, terror, or worry about the future. If they express these feelings, comfort them that this was not the case while pointing out that they are experiencing a common reaction.

Although children may struggle with a divorce for a long time, the actual effects often take approximately two to three years to surface. Some people can express their feelings at this time. However, other children just won't have the vocabulary, depending on their age and level of development. Acting out or being depressed may be the alternative. This could result in falling grades or a lack of interest in extracurricular activities for children in school. Younger children also frequently display similar emotions while playing. With young children, be careful of the "sleeper effect": while they may initially take major changes without issue, behavior problems or difficult emotions may surface years later. Even if children appear to be accepting of the major changes, openness and honesty and appropriate ways of coping can prevent problems in the future.

Despite the urge to prevent children from feeling a certain way, children (and adults, for that matter) have the right to express their emotions. Additionally, your children might be less likely to communicate their actual emotions to you if you try to put on a "happy face."
For children and families who need assistance getting through these early years, group programs for divorced children provided by schools or faith-based organizations are a great resource.

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Spare the children from adult disagreements and fights.

One of the most difficult things to achieve is this. However, it's important to remember to never speak negatively of your spouse in front of your children or to anybody else nearby. These things are noticed by kids. According to research, the amount of parental conflict that children of divorce witness are the single biggest impact on their ability to adapt over the long term. Kids are put in a difficult position if they are forced to choose sides or listen to criticism of one of their parents.

Real events should be recognized just as much. Recognize what has happened, for instance, if one spouse leaves the family or leaves him or her. You are not need to provide an explanation for your ex's actions. But if your children ask you a question, it's crucial to respond as honestly and truthfully as you can.

When you're feuding, avoid using children as messengers or go-betweens.

Avoid using your children as messengers, even though it could be tempting. Other means of communication with your ex-partner exist. Avoid asking your child about what is going at the other home as well. When children believe they are being asked to "spy" on the other parent, they become upset. If at all possible, speak with the other parent directly about matters like visiting schedules, health concerns, or academic difficulties.

As kids get used to a new partner or the partner's children, expect some hiccups.

One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is entering new relationships, blending families, and getting remarried. A new, blended family may cause more stress for some time and require additional transition time. To help avoid issues, keep lines of communication open, give parents and children one-on-one time, and look out for symptoms of stress.


Getting Help

To help your family, learn how to manage your stress.

Parents and their children may find it easier to adjust to separation and divorce with support from friends, family, the church and other religious institutions, as well as groups like Parents Without Partners. Children can confide with one another and meet others who have built strong connections with split parents. Getting support can assist parents in overcoming a variety of emotional and practical difficulties.

Kids should be taught to view both parents as positively as they can whenever possible. Even in the best-case scenarios, separation and divorce may be upsetting and discouraging for children.

Parents must also keep in mind the importance of caring for themselves. Find people who will help you cope with stress, and seek support when you require it. Try to continue some long-standing family customs while creating fresh memories to share. In difficult times, teaching your children how to take care of their bodies and minds can help them grow more resilient.

Keep in mind that time itself, honesty, sensitivity, and self-control will all aid in the healing process.

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