When a married couple decides to divorce, the gamut of emotions runs high. One minute you’ll be angry and stressed, the next, sad and anxious, and then an hour later, after you’ve had time to process your current thought, you’ll be content – at least for a little while.
All of the emotions you are feeling, your child(ren) is also experiencing. A child of any age, but especially young and minor children, may not fully understand what’s taking place, have a boatload of questions, or stay silent. It’s important to help them cope with their feelings, but let your children process the divorce on their terms.
To help your children deal with their parent’s divorce, you must be able to cope with your feelings. A few steps to manage the divorce stress are to eat healthy and nutrient-dense foods, start a regular exercise or calming regimen, and find a trustworthy confidant who will allow you to vent. Also, find a hobby that will keep you engaged and put you in a good mental state.
While you have to be there for your children even your emotions aren’t in check, the above suggestions will only better prepare you.
The first two ways to help your children cope with divorce is to make sure they know they’re loved and that the divorce is not their fault. Children think that when a parent doesn’t show or is distant that it’s they’re fault. Many children default to this theory because they don’t know any better. It’s critically important that parents reassure their children they are loved beyond belief and that the divorce is about “adult issues.”
Children blaming themselves can show up post-divorce as well if a parent decides to be a no-show. Validate your child’s feelings and let them something like “even adults make mistakes that can hurt the ones they live, and while mailing to pick you up is wrong, it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved.”
When explaining the divorce to your children, don’t sugarcoat the situation. In no way should you expose every detail, but it’s also important to be honest, especially if your children are an age where rumors begin to fly. You likely don’t want an inappropriate rumor filling your child’s mind at school that may or may not be true about their parent’s relationship.
Additionally, some children will ask question after question while others will take a while to open up. Just as you sought a medium to better your mental health, your child could also benefit from a hobby to express their emotions and raise their confidence about the situation.
Lastly, try not to fight in front of your children, or demonize your ex around them. Doing so could prompt your children to subconsciously take sides, which can damage present and future relationships. Give children credit; they can sense and see-through more than you may realize.