When two people fall in love and get married, they assume their union will last forever. After all, they wouldn’t marry if they didn’t plan to stick together. They certainly never thought they would have to teach their kids about coping with divorce.
But sometimes we realize too late that our perfect partner isn’t who we thought they were.
In fact, sometimes we just fail to see the signs.
And if kids are involved, we have to plan for the divorce in a way that keeps their young feelings and emotions in mind.
Did You Know?
About 40 to 50 percent of all first-time marriages end in divorce.]
Source link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/02/02/broken-hearts-rundown-divorce-capital-every-state/1078283001/
How Divorce Affects Kids By Age
Most kids struggle when coping with divorce, but each child will handle the event differently. And depending on your child’s age, you should expect to see different emotions and behaviors in them.
Maybe you're a parent, and you're wondering:
"How can I help my child handle coping with divorce?"
Here are some things you can expect broken down by the age of the child.
Infant to 18 months
At this stage, the child’s basic needs are trust and physical contact. It is during this time that infants form bonds with their parents, and that takes time and physicality. No matter what you’re going through, don’t forget to spend some time bonding with your child.
And children this age can sense when tension is in the air, so it’s important to reduce it as much as possible. They will understand that something is going on that is causing tension, but don’t have the reasoning skills to figure out what it is.
If you notice a loss of appetite or stomach problems in your child, they may not be coping with divorce well.
How you can help children of this age learn coping with divorce skills
You can do a few things to help children of this age.
- 1Hold them when they’re upset
- 2Try to maintain a normal routine
- 3Keep your child’s favorite toys or stuffed animals around
- 4Stay rested so you can be there when they need you
- 5Ask your support group for help
18 months to 3 years
When babies become toddlers, their personalities begin to form and that’s why coping with divorce can be a difficult time for them. At the same time, children of this age see the world through themselves, so they may not pay too much attention to the fact that there is tension in the house.
On the other hand, because they believe the world revolves around them, they might see the divorce as their fault.
Some of the behaviors you might see in a child who is not coping with divorce well are an increase in crying, a need for more attention, difficulties sleeping, unusual habits, and the discovery of anger as an emotion.
Here are a few tips for parents whose children are not coping with divorce well:
- 1Keep a normal routine for your child
- 2Give your child extra attention and be nurturing
- 3Be sure to spend enough quality time with them
- 4Be careful that your actions don’t show tenseness
- 5Ask your family and friends to spend time with your child
3 to 5 years
Children of this age begin to think more complexly and feel that they are in total control of their environment. That can lead to a difficult time coping with divorce because not only will they feel as they are the reason for the divorce, but they will feel powerless to do anything about it.
Because children of this age are apt to feel responsible for the divorce, they may react by feeling uncertain about the future, feeling anger but not understanding how to release it in a healthy way, experience
nightmares, unpleasant thoughts, or ideas.
One thing to remember about these preschool-age kids:
The more positively you react to the divorce, the easier coping with divorce will be for them.
Here are some tips for parents of preschoolers who aren’t coping with divorce well:
- 1Spend some one-on-one time with your child by doing activities like reading books to them
- 2Try to create a predictable schedule with them and spend time with them during the same time every day
- 3Ask your child about his feelings and encourage him to talk to you about them
- 4Tell him that he is safe
- 5If your child wants to see his other parent, arrange for it
6 to 11 years
Children of this age interact with their peers and may ask you some very specific questions when coping with divorce. They have likely become slightly distant at this age, and will probably harbor thoughts of you and your partner getting back together.
They may even try and make that happen themselves.
If your children had a loving upbringing, they will probably feel as if they are being abandoned, and that’s why it’s important that both parents tell them they will always be there for them.
Children of this age don’t really understand divorce and may misunderstand you to mean that one of their parents are divorcing them. Explaining to them that they won’t lose a parent is essential to their well-being.
Keep in mind:
A common response for some children is to blame the divorce on one of the parents. It’s important that both of you sit down with your children and explain to the child that no one person is responsible. You don’t want to force them to pick sides because they need both of their parents.
Predictability and openness are crucial for the mental well-being of your child, especially at his age. Make sure you encourage open communication and keep a set schedule.
Some of the responses you can expect from children of this age are believing that their parents will get back together, feeling as if the parent who left the house has rejected them, feeling financially insecure about the future, reminiscing about the past, claiming to feel sick, so they don’t have to go to school, and feeling alone and abandoned.
Here are some tips to help children of this age who aren’t coping with divorce as well as they should:
- 1Talk to your child and encourage him to open up
- 2Share your emotions, too
- 3Make time to spend quality time together
- 4Tell your child he is safe
- 5Continue to make your home feel like a family
- 6Allow your child some privacy and respect it
- 7Encourage them to talk about things other than the divorce
- 8Get your child interested in some new activities
11 to 18 years
Adolescents are spending more time with their friends and relying less on the security of home to get comfort. They will likely be critical instead of coping with divorce, and not accept the fact that it’s the only solution.
And even though teenagers are in the process of separating themselves from their parents, coping with divorce is still difficult for them. They may act like all they want is to be left alone, but they still need their parents support during this trying time.
Both adolescents and teens may feel anger and even hatred toward one or both of the parents. Also, they may try to take advantage of you and your partner. Their behavior may become unpredictable, and you may sense that they feel very alone.
They may even try to push the blame on one of the parents. And part of their coping with divorce process may have them dealing with fears about their financial stability.
Here are some tips about dealing with kids in this age group:
- 1Don’t be tempted to let them have their privacy all the time — keep communication open with them
- 2Share with them about your experiences and feelings
- 3Stay on top of their behavior at school
- 4Do not ask them to participate or listen to disputes between you and your partner
- 5If you see worrying signs, consider family therapy
- 6Don’t jump into a new relationship
- 7Stick to the household rules they’ve always followed and don’t relax them
Give them time to adjust
You need to consider your kids when planning the divorce. Instead of telling them that their dad is moving out of the house five minutes before he leaves, schedule a time in advance to sit and talk to them.
They need to adjust to the fact that they will no longer live in the same house as both of their parents — and that will take time.
Think about working with an expert
Sometimes working with an expert, such as a family therapist, is the best way for coping with divorce for your children. If you see disturbing behavior, or if they tell you that they need more support than you can give them, make an appointment with a counselor, so they have someone to talk to.
Strategies To Help Ease The Transition
As a parent, you can help your child as they deal with the divorce. For the best results, you and your partner should work together to create an environment where your child feels safe and loved.
Here are some strategies you can use to ensure coping with divorce is something your child can do.
Comeup with a plan
If it’s at all possible, the two of you should sit down together and decide how you will tell your children about the divorce. To do this, you will have to put aside any ill will and concentrate on the best interests of your children.
Come up with a place and time to have the discussion with your children, and then talk about how you will present the divorce to them.
Did You Know?
Children whose parents negotiated a shared parenting plan have better outcomes than those whose parent’s agreed to a sole custody plan.]
Source link: https://ifstudies.org/blog/10-surprising-findings-on-shared-parenting-after-divorce-or-separation
image by vectors market via flaticon
Do it together
When telling your children about the divorce, it’s important that you do it together, presenting a unified front. Otherwise, it will be easy for the child to blame one of the parents automatically.
Explain what’s happening
Children are perceptive, and they probably already sense that something is going on. When you sit down to tell them about the divorce, you should be straightforward with them. Put it in simple terms, according to the age of your children.
You might tell them that daddy and mommy fight a lot, and you think everyone would be happier if you lived apart. Stress to them that they aren’t losing a parent, but will now have two houses to call home.
Assure them they will always be loved
Kids need to know that they’re loved, and when telling them that one of their parents is leaving, it’s more important than ever. Tell them that they will always have the love of both parents, and assure them that they will get to spend a lot of time with both of you.
Honor their emotions
Kids feel a lot of emotions when coping with divorce, and they need to know that it’s natural to feel these things. They also need to know that their feelings won’t upset you or make you angry with them. Tell them that you know they may feel angry or sad and that you want to help them work through these feelings.
Tell your child that anytime they have feelings, they should talk to you, and you will help them understand them. And then periodically check in with them to ensure they aren’t holding things inside.
Be ready to answer their questions
Your kids will likely have questions when coping with divorce, and your role is to answer them so they can find comfort.
They may need to know how often they will see both parents when they will stay at each parent’s house, and if you will ever get back together again.
Be prepared for these questions so you can put your child’s mind at ease. If you don’t know all the answers right then, tell them so and promise to find out as soon as you can.
image by mynamepong via flaticon
Tell them it’s not their fault
Kids are the center of their own world, and they often believe that their actions cause other things to happen. For instance, they may believe that they did something to cause the divorce.
This is important:
It’s essential that you explain to them that you and your partner made the decision to divorce based on adult things — that they had nothing to do with it.
image by Nikita Golubev via flaticon
Don’t talk bad about the other parent
Whatever you do, you should present a unified front when talking to your kids. Don’t tell your kids that the other parent decided to divorce you, or that they were unfaithful, and that’s why you have to get a divorce.
Your kids need to see their parents as two people who love them and will work together to make sure their life doesn’t fall apart.
Doing What’s Best For Your Kid: How To Work With The Other Parent
For people who divorce without kids, it’s possible to sever ties completely and never have to interact with their ex-spouse again.
But for people who have children together, you will not only have to interact with our ex, but you will have to do it a way that’s best for your children.
You will have to co-parent with your ex-spouse.
While that may seem overwhelming, the truth is that both of you follow some rules, it’s entirely doable.
Here are some guidelines that will make you a great parent, even when your child is coping with divorce.
Set up a communications plan
Even though you are no longer together, you are both still your child’s parent. And if the two of you can communicate, it will make things easier for you and your child.
Set a weekly time when you and the other parent talk briefly on the phone. Arrange the week’s activities, talk about anything that’s going on with your child, and make sure the visitation schedule suits both of you.
When you work together in the best interest of your child, he or she will be better for it.
If you expect your parenting plan or visitation schedule always to happen exactly as it should, you’re going to be in for some surprises. People get sick, take vacations, have to leave town for emergencies, and all sorts of other things pop that will mess with your schedule.
That’s why you have to be flexible.
Don’t make it difficult for your child to see their other parent, but work cooperatively with them so that your child’s life isn’t negatively affected by the divorce.
Have alternative arrangements
If you’re dealing with an ex-spouse, who doesn’t show up to pick up your child when they say they would have alternative plans laid out for that child.
Keep in mind:
Your child is probably already feeling rejected, so if a parent fails to show up — or can’t come because they’re sick or had an emergency — have alternative plans in place to ease the impact on your child.
For instance, if your ex was supposed to pick up your son after dinner but had to stay late at work, take your son to a movie or favorite park instead.
Don’t fight in front of the kids
If your child is having a difficult time coping with divorce, one of the worst things you can do is fight in front of them.
Your child loves both of his parents, and it is painful to watch them fight.
If you have things you need to say, or a bone to pick with your ex, do it when your child isn’t around.
Don’t ask them to pick sides
Children should never have to choose between their mother and father, and parents should never ask them to.
A healthy child loves both parents and should be free to express that love.
If you talk bad about your ex in front of your child or force them to decide who they will spend the weekend with, you will do serious emotional harm to them.
Make transitions as peaceful as possible
When a child is going from one parent’s house to another’s, they are probably already a little emotional.
After all, they have to say goodbye to one parent and hello to the other.
Don’t make this transition even more difficult for your child by arguing with the other parent or by making it difficult to pick up or drop them off. Your child will sense the tension, and that will make the process even more difficult for them.
Make send-offs happy
When it’s time to send your child to the other parent’s house, don’t act as if the sky is falling.
Pack them a bag and happily talk to them about the things they will do while they’re away.
Remember, although you will miss them, they need to experience the love of their other parent, too.
Don’t make them feel guilty for that.
Don’t make returns awkward
By the same token:
When your child returns from the other parent’s house, don’t pepper them with questions about their new girlfriend or boyfriend or talk about how badly they washed their clothes.
Instead, listen happily to their stories about their time with their other parent, and be happy for them. In fact, you could use this time as a way to further the bond with your child.
How To Take Care Of Yourself When Coping With Divorce
In order to be the best you can be for your children, you will have to learn to take care of yourself. But it can be difficult to know how to take care of yourself when your children are coping with divorce.
But here’s the deal:
You can’t help them if you are an emotional wreck.
Here are nine things you can do to take care of yourself during the divorce — so you can care for your children.
1. Know that you’re not alone
Almost half of marriages end in divorce. That number isn’t meant to make you feel better because other people share in your misery, but because it shows you how many other people suddenly find themselves in uncharted territory.
It can be terrifying to go through a divorce, especially when you have kids.
But believe it or not:
You aren’t alone. Millions of other people find themselves in the same situation.
And if they can figure it out, so can you.
2. Think of the positives
Divorce brings up a lot of negative emotions. You may wonder how you will take care of yourself financially, how you will provide everything your children need, where you will live, or maybe you will have to get a job for the first time in years.
That’s scary stuff, but here’s the deal:
At this moment, you likely have everything you need.
Your kids are clothed and fed, you have opportunities, and you’re smart enough to take advantage of them.
Don’t let the scary unknowns distract you from the good things you have right now.
3. Stop Explaining Yourself
When going through a divorce, you’re likely to get a lot of questions. Friends and even people you barely know will all want to hear the gory details of your divorce.
But to keep yourself sane and focused on helping your kids cope with the divorce, know that you don’t have to answer them.
Some people ask questions because they’re just curious, others because they like to gossip, and others because they like to be in the know.
But you don’t owe them anything.
Just tell them that it’s complicated, and then continue to focus on how you will support your kids so coping with divorce doesn’t consume them.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep is a magic elixir when dealing with something as traumatic as a divorce. And if you’re going to be there for your kids, you need to make sure you’re well rested and calm.
Getting a good night’s sleep is a great way to accomplish that.
When coping with divorce, it can be easy to fall into depression.
What can you do for it?
Exercising just a few minutes a day can prevent that.
And since you need to increase the amount of time you spend with your kids to help them through it, why not make exercising a way to bond? You can schedule family exercise time by doing a workout video together, swimming in the pool, running around the block, or jumping on the trampoline.
It will not only reduce or prevent depression in you but also in your kids.
6. Find a support system
Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a big family that supports you and your kids, or you have a large group of friends that rally around you and help.
But what if you don’t?
Everyone going through a divorce needs support, and if you don’t have it, you should seek it out.
Here is what you can do:
Try going to support groups, talking to the people at your local church, or introducing yourself to the neighbors you never had time for before.
When you have a support system you can count on, you will be better able to support your children as they deal with the aftermath of divorce.
7. Schedule time to cry
It’s unrealistic to think that you will go about your days happy as a clam while going through a divorce. Divorce is an emotional time because you are cutting ties with someone you thought you would spend the rest of your life with.
So yes, you’re going to feel sad sometimes.
But here’ the deal:
Don’t stuff those feelings.
Schedule some time, maybe after the kids are in bed, to let yourself feel all the emotions you’ve tried to hide all day. Have a good cry if you need to. You need some quiet time to reflect on what happened and come to terms with it.
8. Focus on today
It is easy to become overwhelmed when going through a divorce, especially when children are involved. But instead of thinking about the big picture, focus on the day-by-day things you need to do.
Instead of thinking about the court hearing two weeks from now where you will ask for child support, think about how you will make your child’s day special.
And instead of worrying about the fact that your child won’t grow up in a two-parent household, think about how lucky they are to have two parents who love them.
9. Try something new
Finally, divorce is an end to one way of life, but another one takes its place. Now is the time to try something new as a symbol of your new life.
Meet-ups take place in every city, and you can find just about any type of group there. Maybe you’ll learn to ride horses, or you could join a book club.
Find a family-friendly group and start a new hobby with your kids.
Coping With Divorce Isn’t Easy For Parents Or Kids
But that doesn’t make it impossible.
Sure, things are hard right now, and you’re dealing with a lot of emotions, but so are your kids, and you have to be the strong one.
Stop stressing right now.
Instead, focus on how you will deal with your kids as they are coping with divorce. Will you add to their fear and panic, or will you lovingly and confidently lead them into a new life where they can be happy?
Have you gone through a divorce with kids? Do you have any advice for the parents who are just now experiencing it? If so, we would love to hear about it in the comments below!