Research shows that between 40-50% of married couples in the United States eventually divorce.1 While divorce can be complicated for everyone in the family, this systemic change is particularly challenging for children.
Relocation, financial stress, court hearings, and navigating a new reality of co-parenting are everyday stressors people face. As a parent, you can play a significant role in helping your child cope with this transition. Here are some tips to consider.
Accept Their Feelings
They might be angry, confused, or disappointed in you. They may also pin you as either the “good guy” or “bad guy.” Either of these roles can be challenging, and it’s normal to conflate your child’s feelings with the feelings you have towards your ex.
Instead, aim to focus on embracing your child’s experiences. Allow them to come to you with their emotions. Try to imagine how they must feel in this situation—this visualization exercise can help you harness more empathy.
Shift into being an excellent listener, even when it feels challenging to hear what they have to say. If your child genuinely knows you will listen to them, they may feel safer speaking to you about their needs.
Seek to Minimize Disruptions
Kids thrive with routine, and divorce can undoubtedly alter their usual schedules. Some of this disruption is inevitable, but it’s important to reflect on how you can reinforce some normalcy during this transition.
First, make a genuine commitment to try to maintain consistency in their lives. If possible, keep them in the same school and participating in their usual extracurricular activities.
Furthermore, make an effort to adhere to the same boundaries as you did before the divorce. If possible, collaborate with your ex-spouse on how you can both prioritize maintaining a regular schedule during this time. Even if your ex isn’t on board, you can still focus on doing your part in reducing excess changes.
No matter how you feel about your ex-spouse, it isn’t helpful to share negative thoughts in front of your kid(s). Even if your child starts bashing the other parent, avoid any temptation to join in.
Instead, focus on modeling respect and compassion. If appropriate, remind your child of the other parent’s positive traits. And if you do feel animosity, find your own support system to share your thoughts freely.
Seek to Avoid Conflict in Front of the Kids
While all families experience conflict, it isn’t appropriate to scream, insult, or threaten your partner. Moreover, these behaviors can result in lasting consequences for children. No matter their age, they absorb how you model behavior. Even if you say they shouldn’t do something, they are much more inclined to follow your actions than your words.2
Children can benefit from family or individual therapy during this transition. Young children may need play therapy to help express their feelings, and adolescents often thrive with talk therapy, where they can share their fears and emotions without worrying about judgment. Furthermore, you may also benefit from treatment as you navigate these new changes.
Contact Us today to discuss the best options for you and your child.