How to help the kids cope with your divorce

While it is the couple that gets divorced, when children are involved, the whole family suffers from the effects. Learn how you can minimize the damage to the kids when divorce divides a family.

Whenever it is possible, both parents should break the news of the divorce to their children together. Sometimes, however, it won't work out that way. Regardless, make sure that you remain calm and don't assign blame or delve into sordid details. Acknowledge your own feelings of sadness so the kids understand that it's okay to feel that way as well.

Children internalize guilt over divorce and tend to blame themselves for their parents splitting up. Reassure them frequently that both Mom and Dad love them and that the divorce was not caused by anything they did or didn't do or any problem behaviors.

Because a divorce is a major disruption in a child's life, it can be helpful to alert your son's or daughter's teacher to the situation so that he or she can be aware. If the child is taking it especially hard, they can alert you to this. You might also want to let the guidance counselor and your child's pediatrician know.

When you discuss the divorce with the kids, be prepared to answer their concrete questions about things like living arrangements, planned changes in schools and day-to-day activities. Remember that kids crave structure and continuity, so keep as much as possible the same to prevent insecurities from creepng in.

Be prepared for some acting out, whether they are two or 12. Regressive behaviors are common, as is defiance and aggression. You may find that you or your soon-to-be ex has to earn back some trust from the kids if they feel you were the one responsible for breaking up the family.

As hard as it can be, don't allow yourself to talk badly about the other parent, which can make kids feel compelled to choose sides. Remember that they love their other parent, too.

Never use kids to convey messages between the adults. Children should remain above the fray and out of the divorce as much as is possible.

If it's a particularly contentious divorce, your family law attorney may suggest a family counselor for you and the kids to see and share your feelings.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Children and divorce: Helping kids after a breakup," Mayo Clinic Staff, accessed May 05, 2017

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