Supporting Your Children Emotionally After a Bad Divorce

Each child is different, and hence, will react to divorce differently. They might display anxiety, sadness or anger and hostility. Other kids may look like they are unaffected, but feel barely able to hold it together inside. Divorce, after all, has an emotional toll on even the most stable individuals.

At Triangle Parenting Solutions, we understand what you might be going through and why supporting your child through this difficult time may become arduous. Getting help helps, especially because you’re most likely going through your own issues around the divorce.

Our parent education programs are designed to guide you, your ex, and child through this challenging phase so that you can foster healthy relationships and co-parent with a unified front. Each service we offer is personalized, but the following advice almost always helps before, during, and after divorce.

1.     Understand the Variables That Affect Your Child’s Response to the Divorce

A child’s adjustment to divorce is influenced by a number of factors. The child’s age, gender, and temperament are innate factors and can’t be changed. However, as a parent, you have control over the two factors that have the most impact on the child’s long term adjustment, which are your own emotional stability and the amount of conflict with your child’s other parent. Finding resources to help you through your own feelings about the divorce and learning how to decrease the conflict between you and your co-parent are crucial to your child’s wellbeing.

2.     Don’t Assume they Know it’s Not Their Fault

Kids tend to ‘personalize’ events in their lives. Preschool age children, in particular, often believe they are responsible for the divorce. Elementary age children often feel guilty as a response to the divorce. As adults we know this is ridiculous, but don’t assume that your child knows it’s not their fault. At the same time, be careful not to blame the other parent. Let your child know that these are complicated adult decisions that had nothing to do with anything about them or anything they did.

3.     Don’t Criticize Your Ex

Every time you criticize your child’s other parent in front of them, you are sending them a negative message about themselves. Your child needs to identify with each parent at different points in their development. Thus, you inadvertently end up hurting your child’s self-esteem every time you put down your ex in front of him or her.

4.     Be Strong for Your Child

You’ll have to stay strong and resilient as ever in front of your kids, irrespective of how tough things may get during the divorce. Don’t let your loneliness, sadness, or worry let you forget that you are the caregiver and your child is in fact the child. Use other support systems to help you through this time so that you do not lean on your child for your own emotional needs.

5.     Encourage Your Kid to Talk

Children are often hesitant to talk to their parents about their feelings. They may feel the need to protect you from their thoughts and emotions. Divorce often feels all consuming, but don’t let it be the only topic of communication with your child. Be sure to let them know they can talk to you about anything, but continue to ask them about their friends, activities, day, etc.

Your divorce can be tough on your child, but you can make dealing with the change in lifestyle easier. Get professional consultation and family counseling services. This will help you and your ex to work together to build a healthy environment for your child’s development.

Please feel free to get in touch with us by calling us at 919-539-4840, or email [email protected]

Jennifer Viemont, LCSW, is the owner of Triangle Parenting Solutions. She offers a wide range of services to help separated and divorced parents learn how to communicate and co-parent more effectively and to reduce the risk factors that influence children’s post-divorce adjustment.