According to The New York Times, the divorce rate in America has been declining for a few decades. Nevertheless, there are still many children who have to cope with having their parents separate, so it’s important for parents to help their kids manage this difficult situation – although this often is easier said than in practice.
Most separating or divorcing parents may have never gone through the process before, and therefore may be unsure of what to do when helpings kids cope with divorce. Here are some ways:
Reassure your child that he or she is loved. In his book, Helping Children Cope with Divorce, professor of psychology Edward Teyber notes that children can have a significant decrease in self-esteem due to a divorce. Therefore, before you do anything else, make sure that your child understands that what happened between you and your spouse has nothing to do with him or her. Even though life will change, both parents still love their child.
Break the news together. Although you might want to tell your child about the divorce individually, avoid this temptation. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to inform your child together. Before telling your child, meet with your spouse and agree to remain calm, to not mention any of the specific details, and to answer all of the questions that your child may have.
Don’t involve your child in the conflict. Throughout the process, it’s important to not let your child hear or witness any of the disagreements between you and your spouse. Although your relationship with your spouse is changing, your relationship with your child should not. Don’t do or say anything that might contribute to changing your and your child’s relationship, including bad-mouthing your spouse or demanding that your child give information about your spouse.
Tell your child that it’s OK to express feelings. Throughout the process, your child will have many questions, thoughts and feelings, including feelings of guilt. Encourage your child to express himself or herself when ready, rather than keeping emotions bottled up inside. If you start noticing unusual or abnormal behavior in your child, you may consider it best to schedule a time for your child to meet with a counselor.
Helping kids cope with divorce isn’t easy, and so it’s all the more important for parents to do what’s best for their children – to help assure that children from divorced families can grow up to be healthy and successful adults.