Divorce is a time of turmoil for the entire family. Typically, parents have had time to prepare for and come to terms with the fact that the family unit will be dissolved. However, this news is always startling to children, no matter how inevitable divorce may have seemed. Children often perceive their parents as “superheroes,” so they innocently expect that their parents will work through and solve any issue. When this is not the case, children are often left feeling confused and scared. Divorce ultimately shatters the basic sense of safety and stability that a child finds with Mom and Dad in a united family unit.
What to Tell Your Children During the Divorce:
- Tell them they are not responsible for the divorce!
- Tell them both parents love them although one parent will no longer live in the home.
- Be prepared with an age appropriate answer when your child asks, “Why are you getting divorced?”
- Explain to them in as much detail as possible all the changes that might take place due to the divorce. Give your child as much time as possible to assimilate to the idea of their entire world changing. If possible, do not make huge changes overnight!
- Tell your child to come to you with any questions, concerns or fears they may have. Be a source of security for your child during this time.
What You Should Never Do During the Divorce:
- Never allow your emotions to get in the way of doing and saying what is in your child’s best interest.
- Never speak unkindly of, or degrade the other parent in front of the child. Allow your child to maintain a high level of respect for the other parent so they never feel as though they are stuck in the middle.
- Do not allow your issues with your ex-spouse to interfere with your relationship with your children. Your child deserves you to be the best parent possible, regardless of what issues you are going through with the other parent.
Parents owe it to their children to minimize the long lasting effects that divorce can have on a child. Divorcing parents need to commit to establishing a solid co-parenting relationship with one another, where every decision is centered on what is in the best interest of the child. Although the parents are not together as a couple, a child will ultimately benefit from seeing their parents remain unified in raising and making decisions for their life. This will allow the child to regain stability and security in knowing that their parents remain committed to their parental roles, even if the family unit has dissolved.