Every year, thousands of children around the world are forced to witness the ordeal of divorces. Their reaction to the situation will often depend on how old they are their personality type and the circumstances under which the separation takes place.
However, there is no denying that a divorce is going to have some or the other effect on the children involved. More often than not, initial reactions include shock, sadness, worry, anger and even frustration. In some slightly more fortunate situations, the children are able to cope with the stress in a better way and even play the role of tolerant, supportive and flexible young adults.
As parents, there are a few things you can do to keep your child shielded from the difficult times –
- Make sure all legal talks, conflicts and heated discusses take place when the kids are not around.
- Find ways to minimize any changes in the daily routines of your children, go out for shopping (& saving), movies, and whatever your kid loves.
- Avoid bringing out negativity and blame outside of therapy sessions and to family and friends outside your home.
- Make sure at least one parent is involved in the life of the child at a point of time.
It is often found that while adults seek out support from family, friends, professionals and religious heads during a divorce, they don’t to leave out the kids in the process.
How to Break the News to your Children
As soon as you and your spouse are certain about the route your relationship is taking, bring your children together to talk about your decision to live separately. While there is really no easy way to break the news, it is always recommended that both the parents be present for this talk. Make sure both you and your spouse leave the feelings of blame, guilt and anger out of this. Make sure you have an extended conversation about how you are going to tell your kids without getting upset or angry during the discussion.
Make sure you convey the basic message while tailoring the content of your discussion depending on the age of your children, their maturity and emotional temperaments. Make sure that your children understand that what is happening is between the mom and dad and due to no fault of the children. Many kids often feel that they are blame in spite of their parents insisting otherwise. It is important that you as a parent find ways to offer consistent reassurance in this regard.
What to tell them
Explain to your children that sometimes grownups change the way they love each other or don’t end up agreeing on things and may need to stay apart. However, remind the children that the parents and the kids are tied together for life by birth or by adoption. In spite of all of this, parents and kids will not stop loving each other or get separated from each other.
Make sure you talk involves sufficient information that gives them an idea on the changes that will take place in their lives. Try to answer all their questions with as much truth in it as possible. However, remember that the children don’t need to be exposed to all the reasons behind the separation, especially if it puts either one of the parents in a bad light. All they need to know is that there will a change in the routine, but they will still get to see both their parents often.
With kinds that are much younger, it is best to keep it simple. Older kids or teenagers may be more aware of the tell tale signs within the house and may have questions based on things they have overheard or picked up during conversations.
Managing the Reactions of your Child
Not all children may be ready to give an immediate reaction. Make sure that you let them know that you will be there to talk whenever it is that they want to. Some children may reacting by trying to over please their parents and pretend that everything is normal; while others may avoid feeling any challenging emotions by denying the inner sadness or anger. Make sure you keep track of their changing behavior especially with regards to appetite, sleep patterns and social signs.
Be prepared to answer the following questions –
- Who will I be living with?
- Will I be going to the same school?
- Will I have to move homes?
- Where will each parent move?
- When will I get to see either of my parents?
- Who will I be spending the holidays with?
- Will I get to see my friends?
In such situations, being honest is not always easy; especially when you don’t have all the answers just yet. However, the focus should be to make sure that your children aren’t scared or guilty about anything that is going on. It is always recommended that you tell them everything they need to know at that moment; allowing them to gain some confidence in the uncertain future.
By giving your child assurance about various aspects in his or her new life, it becomes a lot easier for him/her to cope and adapt to the changes.