It can be hard for children to cope with the many effects of divorce; parents not living in the same home, budget shifts, seeing relatives less often. If children move to a new house it could also mean leaving behind neighborhood friends and maybe changing schools.
Divorce is never easy but there are ways to help make it a smoother transition for your children.
Tips for Transitioning Smoothly
Both parents usually want to be involved in the lives of their children after divorce. The earlier both you and your ex begin applying these tips, the quicker your child will adjust and the less angst they’ll carry.
- Avoid arguing in front of your child, don’t speak poorly of your ex, and do not make your child “take sides.” A child’s mind isn’t ready to understand the complexities of an adult relationship’s decline.
- Be clear that you love and value your child despite that you no longer love your ex romantically. Even if your child hasn’t shown signs of personal blame, which is a basic response to divorce, you should still reassure them that they’re valued and it’s not their fault.
- Maintain a civil relationship with your ex. Be willing to stand next to each other at a soccer game. It’s important that your child see you’re both able to be present in their lives without them needing to worry that a fight might break out.
- Don’t ask your child to “relay” information. Practice direct communication with your ex to avoid making your child feel used by needing to pass messages between the two of you.
- Try to keep your stress and mental health stabilized. It’s good for a child to see you have emotions, but you need to have proper boundaries too. You should never lean on your child emotionally. They need you to be present, patient, and stable.
- Keep as many aspects of a child’s life as normal as possible. Children feel psychologically and physically safe through consistency.
- Do not discuss finances or child support. Children should never have to worry about how things are going to get taken care of financially.
- Allow your child to be angry with you within healthy boundaries. Let your child know it’s okay that divorce is hard for them.
- Respect the relationship your child has with their other parent and don’t cast blame on your ex. Children need to know that it’s okay for them to love both parents without restraint, no matter what happened to cause divorce.
- Avoid buying gifts, doing particularly fun activities, or lessening rules for the sake of “making it up.” Children need stability and a good ear to listen to them more than gifts and events that don’t last.
- Be a listening ear. Each child will have a different reaction to divorce. Be patient with your child and have a listening ear so you know how to help them specifically.
- Consider setting appointments with a family counselor. It’s good for a child to have neutral ground to express their feelings.
More than one million children experience the divorce of their parents every year.
The American Psychological Association states the children of step-families face higher risks of emotional and behavior problems. Please remember that walking your children through the divorce process is vitally important to their adjustment and well-being.