Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce

When you and your partner decide to divorce or separate, the decision affects every member of your family. It is a distressing time for all of you – and children may find it hard to understand. While you can’t avoid your child experiencing some sadness, there are steps you can take to make the process as easy on them as possible.

Make sure your children know they are loved


It is very important that children understand you are not divorcing them and that both parents still love them as much as before. Children may blame themselves – particularly younger children – or believe they must somehow ‘fix’ things between their parents. The younger the child, the less they will be able to understand the situation. Reinforcing how much they are loved will make the transition easier.

When you are living separately, sometimes commitments can fall through. If you or your partner cancel a social visit or a planned event, make sure your child knows these things happen and it doesn’t mean you don’t want to spend time with them.

Always be honest


It’s best that children understand you and your partner are not going to reconcile. False hope can only lead to disappointment.

It is equally important that, should your partner miss a visit and disappoint your child, you let your child be honest about how it makes them feel, listen attentively, and make it clear you are there to support them whenever they need to talk.

Be open and communicative


Divorce and separation can result in big changes, such as a new home, less money or a new person in a parent’s life. It’s difficult to know how much your child can handle, but generally speaking, the older they are, the more honest you should be. Inform your child of changes as they are happening, such as:

  • A parent moving out
  • The need to move home
  • A holiday you may no longer be able to go on or other cancelled plans
  • Pet custody (this is likely to be very important to your child!)
  • One or both of you meeting someone new (again, it must be clear that this will not affect how much the child is loved)

Maintain routine


This is particularly helpful for younger children who rely on stability. Avoid changing routines as much as possible to give them a sense of normalcy and security. Introduce changes as gradually as possible, if and when they become necessary.

Never fight in front of them


Always be civil in front of children – however you feel about each other, the children’s feelings must come first. If you need to talk and expect things may get heated, it’s best to ask friends or family to look after the children for a few hours so they never have to hear conflict. It’s very important children are not encouraged to ‘blame’ a parent or take sides.

Looking for more information? Download our free ebook, ‘Separation and divorce – putting your children first’ for more helpful and detailed tips to assist your children in coping with divorce and separation.

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