Regardless of their age, kids are the worst affected during a divorce. Statistics reveal, nearly 50 percent of all American kids witness their parental separation by the age of 16, affecting their physical and emotional state of mind. Sadly, when they are unable to cope with the stress, they display upsetting reactions of shock, gloominess, frustration, and anger.
More often than not, divorcing couples become so occupied with their own emotions and the legal paperwork that they barely have the time or the patience to focus on their kids’ feelings.
If divorce is imminent, it is critical that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse take time out and talk to your kids about the separation.
Every kid has his/her own way of responding to stress and emotional experiences; yet, the tips shared in this post will help you have an honest talk with your kids, enabling them to cope with the upheaval of a breakup and come out of it feeling secure and loved.
1) Encourage Open Conversations
Encourage your youngsters to express their feelings about the divorce. Plan open conversations in the presence of the other parent and give them a chance to ask questions and voice their opinions. This will empower them to express themselves freely and ease their frustration.
Sugar-coating the situation will weaken their trust in you. Give them the necessary information without overwhelming them.
For instance, your kids are entitled to know why you are separating. Long-winding answers and justifications can baffle them.
Be honest about the situation and say, “Your mom/dad and I don’t get along anymore. However, we both love you very much and will always be there for you.” Tell your kids, it is okay not to get along with someone and that doesn’t stop parents from loving their children.
A few books, namely ‘Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families‘ – by Laurene K. Brown and Marc Brown, ‘My Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore: A Drawing Book for Children of Separated or Divorced Parents‘ – by Judith A. Rubin, and ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It‘ by Jeanie Franz Ransom are specially designed to help kids understand divorce and encourage them to express their emotions through art.
Consider investing in these books and work with your kids to prepare for the upcoming divorce.
2) Seek Professional Support
If you find your child not responding to open conversations, it is wise to involve a neutral person who can help them express their emotions.
Kids often look up to and heed the advice of professionals, such as an experienced counselor, their school teacher, or a reputed divorce attorney as they provide a welcome break from their folks at home.
Being in the profession for a long time, your lawyer may know the right people who can help you talk to your kids about the separation. Don’t hesitate to ask your lawyer to refer you to a reputed counselor in your neighborhood.
For instance, if you live in the DuPage County of Illinois, a divorce lawyer near Oakbrook, IL can help you get in touch with a local therapist who deals with family issues, such as separation and its effects on kids.
3) Be Patient with Their Reactions
When you tell your kids about the marital split, expect a mixed bag of emotions. It’s normal for kids to cry, shout and slam doors, or even lock themselves up in their room. Respect their emotions, listen to what they have to say, and if required, give them the time to let the situation sink in.
Take time to understand what your kids are going through and be patient with their reactions. Acknowledging their retort will assure them that their parents still care about them, enabling them to cope with the upcoming changes in a better way.
4) Make Them Feel Secure and Loved
Though you see your divorce as a complex situation that was caused due to multiple issues in your marriage, your kids can be pretty self-seeking about it. For them, the loss of love between their parents means loss of security and having to live in different homes.
Assure them that life will not change for them by keeping their routine the same as before. Tell them that you and their mom/dad will continue to love and care for them, just like before.
For instance, if they are concerned about having just one parent at their school annual function, assure them that you both will be there together.
Similarly, if they are anxious about not being able to be with both their parents on important occasions, such as birthdays and festivals, talk to your partner and come to a mutual agreement that will enable your kids to enjoy quality time with each of you.
5) Tell Them It’s not Their Fault
Regardless of the factors that led to your divorce, children tend to blame themselves for the split. Kids, especially of the elementary age group, are likely to believe that their thoughts and actions have caused the marital disharmony between their parents.
Let your kids know that the split is because of certain ‘grown-up’ problems and your divorce has nothing to do with them.
6) Avoid Arguing in Front of Kids
Children are highly sensitive to all types of parental conflicts, including suppressed and courteous hostility. As much as you hate your partner, present a united front when talking to kids.
This is not the time to fight about the marital assets and financial issues. Research shows, kids exposed to constant parental fights are less likely to adjust to a divorce, impairing their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Talk to your spouse in advance and agree on the divorce-related facts, explanations, and arrangements. This way, when you talk to your children, they know that though you are separating as a couple, you both are still their parents and will always be the same to them.
Divorce can be tough on youngsters. When kids learn that their parents are breaking up, they often fail to understand what went wrong. Moreover, they feel confused and anxious about their future, causing them to feel insecure.
As you prepare for a separation, use the tips shared in this post to reassure your kids and help them adjust to the changes that will follow.