How do you help your child cope with a divorce?

Divorce is especially hard on children, and the way their parents handle it can make a difference in their healing.

Despite everyone’s best intentions, not every marriage results in happily ever after. In fact, relationships end in divorce for many San Diego residents. The end of a marriage is usually a difficult time for both spouses, emotionally and financially. They will need to deal with dividing marital property in addition to overcoming heartbreak and other negative emotions. If children came from the union, there can be even more complications.

A divorce can be one of the most upsetting and confusing times in a child’s life. Children may wonder why their parents decided to split up and may even be tempted to take the blame. It’s important to reassure a child during this difficult time and to answer his or her questions in a caring and age-appropriate way. This can go a long way toward healing and acceptance. However, explaining a divorce to children can be nearly as difficult as the divorce itself. What can divorcing parents say to their child to help ease the pain?

Honesty, compassion and understanding

According to Helpguide, honesty is always the best policy when talking to children of any age about divorce. Parents might keep it simple for a younger child and tell him or her that Mom and Dad will live in different places now to keep from fighting so much. Older children will often need more explanation, and it’s good to answer questions truthfully and to let them know both parents are always there to listen and understand.

When listening to children’s concerns, parents should acknowledge their feelings and offer support. It can be extremely reassuring for children to know they are loved and that the divorce was in no way their fault. Parents will need to understand that their children still love both of them, and should avoid placing blame on the other parent and making it seem like the children have to take sides.

According to Kids Health, the following situations should be avoided:

  • Confiding confusing and upsetting adult concerns with children, such as monetary issues, custody arrangements and child support
  • Using children to spy on the other parent or to relay contentious messages back and forth
  • Bad-mouthing the other parent in front of a child

Children also need structure and stability to feel secure. It can help to provide routines and rules to ease the transition to their parents living in separate households. Establishing new family traditions can go a long way toward making this time of life as positive as possible.

A professional may be necessary

Most children will transition smoothly through a divorce and heal in time, although there may always be some pain or confusion associated with their parents’ split. Parents should watch their children carefully for signs that they are not coping well with the divorce, such as depression, failing grades, eating disorders and withdrawing from friends and family. It’s not uncommon for a child to need to speak with a therapist to deal with the painful emotions of a divorce.

Listening, reassuring, providing stability and getting help when it’s needed can all help to smooth the path of divorce for children in San Diego. Parents may need an experienced family law attorney to help them navigate the complex issues of parenting plans, child support, property division and spousal support.

Keywords: divorce, children, custody