Helping Kids Cope with a Divorce
Many American children are affected by divorce each year. Those youngsters often feel trapped in the middle as the family splits up. If mommy and daddy don't love each other, they wonder, do they love me?
Anger, fear, separation anxiety, a sense of abandonment, self-blame, sadness and embarrassment are common reactions for most children.
During the first couple of years after a divorce, your stress may get in the way of your ability to parent effectively. You can help ensure your children a healthier transition when you:
Tell them you love them--often. Provide a stable relationship with both parents.
Be open and honest. Explain in age-appropriate terms the basic reason for your divorce so your children know they're not to blame.
Keep your kids out of it. Your divorce is between you and your spouse. Don't use your children as pawns, spies, or marriage counselors.
Provide consistency. Coordinate with your ex-spouse regarding the same house rules, bedtime, curfew, and favorite foods.
Offer professional help. This could be individual counseling or a divorce group, provided by community agencies, schools, or courts.
If your kids aren't overwhelmed by feelings of responsibility surrounding your divorce, they'll generally mature sooner, become more independent, and tend to have higher self-esteem than kids who are left with unresolved feelings of responsibility and guilt.
You and your spouse once loved each other. Remind your children of this, and that from that love, they are the greatest gift.
- newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
- Roux, Susan L., ARNP