Supporting Your Kids Through Divorce
Kids are resilient. They’ll bounce back. They’re too young to remember what’s happening. It’s advice almost every parent going through a divorce has heard, and while it’s true that yes- kids are resilient and may not remember every little detail- divorce is hard on them, too. Recognizing that and knowing how to handle it will help your kids get to the other side of your divorce in one piece. Here is some help in supporting your kids through divorce.
Encourage Open Conversations
You may be afraid to talk to your kids about the divorce because you don’t want them to blame you. No parent likes it when their kids are angry with them, but right now, the worst thing you can do is not communicate. Kids whose parents allow them to ask questions heal faster from a divorce because they are able to process those feelings instead of sweeping them under the rug.
Be prepared for these common questions:
- Who will I live with?
- How will I see my friends?
- Will I have to change schools?
- What happens when one of you starts dating?
- Can I still participate in all of the activities I’m currently doing?
- Why can’t you just get back together?
Some of these questions might be easy to answer; others- not so much. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your children if you don’t have an answer right away. Simply tell them that you appreciate their question, but that you aren’t equipped to answer it at this time. Most kids just want their feelings to be acknowledged, even if there isn’t a solid answer to their question.
Know When to Ask for Help
Even the top psychologists and divorce attorneys need help talking to their kids about their divorce. Each situation is unique, and you aren’t always going to know how to handle it. It’s okay to ask for help- more than okay. There are so many trusted professionals willing to help you and your kids through this difficult time in your life- from school counselors to divorce coaches.
Even if you think your kids are handling the changes well, it’s still a good idea to give them someone outside of the situation to talk to. No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult not to be a little biased against your ex when you’re going through a divorce. A third party without a vested interest can give you and your kids sound advice so that you all can cope in a healthy way.
Keep Things Consistent
Kids- especially little kids- thrive on routine. Even though their lives are changing, their core routine doesn’t have to. Encourage them to continue their extracurricular activities and to spend time with their friends. Keep a consistent morning and nighttime routine at both houses so the adjustments your kids need to make are minimal.
If you and your ex struggle with communication, invest in a co-parenting app to help keep track of schedules, homework, and other important information involving your kids. Your kids will be less likely to struggle in school and with their relationships if you and your ex are on the same page.
Reduce Conflict in Front of the Kids
Even if your kids are older, they don’t have the capacity to understand visitation schedules, child support payments, and other legal jargon. They only need to know what directly affects them. Everything else, keep it between you, your ex, and your attorneys.
Avoid the blame game and talking negatively about your ex in front of your kids. Remember, they love you both equally and it is still their parent. Making them feel like they have to choose sides can cause great damage to them as they get older. Even if your ex is absolutely awful, it’s best to let your kids figure that out on their own than for them to accuse you later on of turning them against the other parent.
Take Care of Yourself
Our kids are so intuitive. They see and hear everything, so right now, it’s important to show them that you are taking care of yourself. When they watch you eating healthy, exercising, going to therapy, and practicing other important forms of self-care, they will be more likely to emulate that.
Taking the time to care for yourself and to heal is not selfish. It’s the most selfless thing you can do because you’re teaching your kids the right way to handle whatever challenges come their way. When they see you survive and thrive after a divorce, they’re going to apply those lessons learned in their own lives as they get older.
Remember that you are there to support your kids- not the other way around. No matter how difficult this time is for you, let them be little and try to limit the impact the divorce has on them. Childhood is fleeting, and they can still have a happy one, despite a divorce. With open communication, the right resources, and a whole lotta love- your kids are going to be okay. For more help check out 12 Tips to Help Keep Your Focus on the Children Throughout Your Divorce.
If you are looking to connect and chat with others going through divorce, join our private Split.fyi community for an extra boost of support.