Just because your children may be older, going through a divorce can still cause them stress and anxiety. It’s important that you have realistic expectations regarding how your older children will react through the process of a divorce. Older children experience similar feelings as younger children when faced with a parental divorce. Anger, sadness and uncertainty are some normal feelings that are often experienced, but luckily there are ways to help you navigate through the emotions together.
First, keep the lines of communication open. Help children process information by not hiding your own stress or feelings. This shows your child that it’s okay to be sad. Be prepared to explain topics in general, offering practical information they want to know. Remember: some tiny details often invite more questions, but it’s okay to be candid as long as it is not too personal or information that may be detrimental to your child(ren) and their feelings towards your spouse. Revealing your feelings will help kids to better relate to the fear, anger and confusion they have about the divorce.
However, it’s also important to avoid making adult kids your ultimate confidants. It is tempting to confide in the people closest to you during a divorce, and that often may be your older child. Be careful what information you share and how you share it with your teen or young adult. Sharing too many personal details or high-stress issues between you and your ex can cause your child to have distress, ultimately causing disillusion toward one or both parents. Address issues directly with your ex-spouse and utilize a mediator whenever necessary. Avoid using your kids as messengers or as therapists.
During a divorce, it’s important to assure your children that you still love them and that both you and your spouse will strongly remain in their lives. This is true no matter how old the child may be. Let them know that the divorce was not because of them or anything they did. Too often adult kids don’t get crucial information until later in life, which may cause them to re-process and re-open emotional wounds. Be mature; discuss openly and honestly while leaving any details out that may be too painful. You know your child better than anyone – only share information that you believe he/she can handle.
Expressing bitterness for your ex-spouse with ideas such as s/he is not a good parent or that your ex is not someone with whom your kids should want to have a relationship does not cultivate a mature rapport that your child desires. You will want to continue to compliment their relationship with your ex in positive ways to help free them of any guilt they may have derived from the divorce.
Pay special attention during holidays and birthdays when children can become upset about changing family traditions. Be flexible about creating new rituals, special events, and be sensitive about incorporating new individuals into family time. Look for fun activities that promote stress reduction, while encouraging building of new relationships.
Loneliness is another emotion that older children may feel during a divorce, and it can be a quite common one. Make sure your child has a support group where s/he can listen and converse with others who have experienced similar situations and feelings. Many of these groups are online, which makes attending more accessible. Church organizations and your child’s pediatrician can also offer support groups for children who have experienced a divorce.
Remember: divorce is stressful for everyone. As a parent, it’s important to be vigilant. Watch for rough spots and arrange for counseling, which provides an objective point of view to help your kids if any serious emotional signs are detected.
As older children grow and develop, make yourself available to listen whenever they want to talk. Sometimes years after a divorce, children may need to share information or different perspectives with you. As a parent, you will need to encourage kids to share their feelings without fear of judgment or hurting your feelings.
Hiring the right divorce attorney is essential to achieve a resolution that is best for you and your family and one that encourages positive family transitions during divorce. Contact the law offices of Barbara Sherer. We will provide you with expert legal advice and the confidential support that your family needs.