The decision to divorce is never easy, but the pain and confusion are only magnified when children are caught in the middle. And while it may be difficult to wrap your mind around what’s happening (let alone help your children understand), rest assured that you are not alone.
Resources exist in unlikely places. Teachers, pediatricians, counselors, and clergy are often more than willing to help children navigate this sensitive time and provide the safe space and listening ear necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Here are 5 recommendations to help your child through your divorce:
1. Be patient. With as many questions as you may have about what just happened and what the future holds, your child probably has twice as many questions with less life experience and fewer coping skills. This may result in your child acting out for a short or prolonged period. Enlist the guidance of a professional to help your child handle these big feelings.
2. Be clear. Communicate plainly and frequently that the divorce is not your child’s fault. Ask other adults in your child’s life — teachers, babysitters, coaches — to watch for signs that your child is struggling with guilt.
3. Be consistent. Change as little as possible — especially in the first few months. You and your children need time to adjust to what’s next. If possible, allow your child to stay in the same bedroom, school, and after-school activities as long as possible. Not only will this benefit your child, it will also allow you to gain useful feedback from the professionals who knew your child before the divorce.
4. Be careful. Don’t overindulge, overwhelm, or overreact. The name of the game: Normality. Your life may feel anything but normal right now, but you can still do everything in your power to make things as normal as possible for your child.
5. Be you. You may have lost sight of who you are in recent days, but focus on getting back to your best self mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. You have much to live for — not the least of which is the little person who calls you “Mom” or “Dad.”
Sure, you are going through a difficult time right now. But please be confident that this period of your life isn’t the final chapter, and rest assured that you are not alone. Professionals all around you are happy to help you however we can.