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5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

5 Things You Can Do to Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

Divorce is a difficult, stressful event, yet there are many things parents can do to help children through this transition. In a ten year longitudinal study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, outcomes were most successful for children of divorced families when they are shielded from parental fighting, family conflict is kept minimal or is resolved, and parents are cooperative with one another.

Here are 5 ways to help your child adjust during a divorce.

  1. Be honest about the divorce, but keep details minimal. Once you and your partner have decided to get a divorce, tell your children, do not hide this information. Keep feelings of anger, sadness, and blame out of the conversation with your children. Sharing details that concern adult issues such as infidelity, financial issues, or substance use are rarely appropriate to share and may cause damage to your child’s relationship to one or both parents. Consider the explanation that many parents change and grow apart over time. Reassure your children that the decision had nothing to do with them, and that a divorce will not impact either parents’ love for their children.

  2. Keep interactions with your ex-partner as neutral as possible, and avoid talking about him/her or the divorce in front of your children or when your children are within ear-shot. Children are incredibly perceptive and will pick up on even subtle indicators of conflict. Even if you believe your ex is speaking badly about you, do not engage in this behavior.

  3. Do not ask your children to report on your ex. Children may instinctively try to place themselves in the middle of their parents during times of conflict. Parents inadvertently reinforce this when they ask children to answer questions about the other parent, or to report with high levels of detail what the child is doing while spending time with the other parent. This includes making negative comments to your children about how they are spending their time with their other parent.

  4. Mealtimes, bedtimes, rewards, and consequences should all be the same in both households. However, it is important that you keep a focus on the rules in your home without obsessing over what is taking place at your ex’s residence.

  5. Encourage a positive relationship between your children and your ex. This helps children respect both parents, and can improve long term outlook on family relationships.

Children are resilient and will follow your lead. If they see you expressing your feelings in a healthy way, exercising patience with them, and seeking support when you need it, they will do the same.

Jenna Meyerberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in treating children, adolescents, and families. In addition to helping families recover after divorce, she helps parents adjust to life transitions, cope with challenging behaviors, and counteract the negative effects of technology. Her research focuses on the impact of social media on mood, behavior, and self-esteem. Her office is located in Brick, NJ.

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