How to Help a Child Through Divorce

Legal |

No couple has a child and expects a divorce, but it can happen, and if it does it’s a big adjustment for the kids. If you’re wondering how to help a child through divorce, we have 8 tips that can help you help your child through a divorce.

1. Keep Your Arguments Private


Regardless of how you and your ex feel about each other, you should both agree to not fight in front of your children. As Marilyn Wedge Ph.D. notes in Psychology Today, “For years I’ve found in clinical experience that the number one cause of children’s psychological problems (apart from severe abuse and neglect) is parents having arguments in front of their kids.”

Living in an acrimonious atmosphere can make kids feel worried and afraid. Learning to live with the tension between the two of you is easier when they don’t think that they need to take sides in an argument. Talking with a counselor or mediator can help you and your ex learn to communicate with each other in a way that doesn’t hurt your child.

2. Maintain a Consistent Schedule

Children are more relaxed when they know what to expect at home. If you and your ex have separate households it is best to keep discipline and routines the same or similar to what your kids are used to. Knowing that the rules about homework, bedtime, and screen time are the same in both households reduces anxiety in young children and shows a united parental front with teens. Consistency also helps them adjust to their new living arrangements easier.

Life is constantly evolving. So is your child’s social schedule — and yours and your spouse’s. A rigid visitation schedule may not work for your kids any more than it’ll work for you and your ex. The Miles Mason Family Law Group suggests parents be open to changes and makeup times.

“For a healthier relationship post-divorce, it helps to be flexible and to compromise,” the site states. “Make-up time is up to you, the parents, and it shouldn’t be abused, but some make-up time may be a good idea depending on [the] circumstances.” Focus on putting your children’s needs first and build your plan from there. Even a small change can make the situation less stressful for everyone.

3. Be Flexible with the Visitation Schedule

Life is constantly evolving. So is your child’s social schedule — and yours and your spouse’s. A rigid visitation schedule may not work for your kids any more than it’ll work for you and your ex. The Miles Mason Family Law Group suggests parents be open to changes and makeup times.

“For a healthier relationship post-divorce, it helps to be flexible and to compromise,” the site states. “Make-up time is up to you, the parents, and it shouldn’t be abused, but some make-up time may be a good idea depending on [the] circumstances.” Focus on putting your children’s needs first and build your plan from there. Even a small change can make the situation less stressful for everyone.

4. Support Visits with the Other Parent

Children often feel guilty when they spend more time with one parent over another. Let them know that you’re happy they’re keeping up a relationship with your ex. Encourage them to have a good time and tell them you can’t wait to hear all about it. This helps reduce their stress levels, especially if they worry about leaving you alone. It can also reduce the pressure on your ex and minimize any tension that occurs during pickups. When they return after the visit, be interested and supportive.

5. Have a Backup Plan

Sometimes, your ex isn’t reliable. That stinks for you, but it’s even worse for the child, so have an alternate plan ready to go. Talk with your children and agree on how long to wait before going for Plan B. Whether it’s a trip to the mall or just going for ice cream, having a fun alternate arrangement can help lessen the sting of a no-show and divert the animosity of a potential letdown. If your son or daughter wants to talk about how sad or disappointed they are, it’s important to let them vent.

6. Encourage Communication

Kids often don’t know how to put their feelings into words. Instead, their behavior gives you clues when they’re feeling angry or sad, but it helps to have them talk about it. Offer support and tell them you know it feels different without their other parent there. Encouraging your child to talk it out helps you understand their perspective and their mindset.

The Canadian Pediatric Society says, “When they talk, listen carefully and try not to interrupt. It’s normal for children to have trouble expressing their feelings, so be patient. Though it may be hard, it’s important to let them be honest about their fears and concerns. Answer any questions as honestly as you can.”

7. Welcome Family Involvement

With the stress of learning to live their new normal, parents and kids often lose contact with other family members. Encourage aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins to keep in touch and stay involved in their lives. The family connection can make your kids feel more at ease with their new life changes. It can also give you some down time to relax and regroup after your split.

8. Tell Your Child They Are Loved

Help your child through the divorce by making sure they know they’re loved. You should also let them know that they’re not the reason for the split. Keep the explanation kid-friendly and tell them they’re not to blame. Children need ongoing reassurance that both of you love them.

Even in amicable divorces, children often feel their world has been turned upside down. Have patience with your kids as they adjust to their new situation. It can help reduce their emotional turmoil and make it easier to accept their new life changes.

How to Help a Child Through Divorce — Sources

KidsHealth.org
Marilyn Wedge Ph.D. in Psychology Today
Miles Mason Family Law Group
Parents.com
Canadian Pediatric Society