Children and divorce

4 Things That Every Child Affected By Divorce Needs 

By Annie Miller, LMFT

 

This is blog post #2 in the series “Helping My Child Thrive After A Divorce.” Check out the first blog post in the series here

 

Are you wondering what divorce does to a child? Divorce is not easy for anyone. It is especially hard for kids. Researchers have found that the first year after divorce tends to be the hardest on kids. 

 

As a parent, you can help your child cope with the divorce much better if you understand what they need to help them get through this difficult time. Here are some things that every child who is coping with their parents’ divorce needs. 

#1 To Know That You Will Always Love Them  

 

 

When asked why they are getting divorced, some parents will say “we just don’t love each other anymore.” While this might be true, this is something that you should not say to your kids. It can cause your child to wonder if you will stop loving them, as well. You can simply say that sometimes people are happier living apart. And, make sure you reaffirm your love for your child. Explain that “we will both love you no matter what.” 

 

#2 Structure & Clear Expectations 

 

 

A divorce can cause a lot of anxiety for a child. Routine and clear expectations in each household provide consistency. And, consistency helps reduce anxiety. Think about it — if you know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, you are probably less stressed and worried. The same is true for your child. Consistency provides a sense of comfort to your child. Here are some tips. 

 

 

  • Establish routines. You may have to establish new routines when going through a divorce and that is okay. Just make sure you have a daily routine or schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. 
  • Set limits. Some parents tend to be lenient with rules after a divorce because they feel guilty about setting limits. They think that giving in will help their children be happier. But, the opposite is true. Consistent limits help your child know what to expect. What if your teen says something like “but my mom says that I don’t have a curfew?” Don’t give in. Stick to your rules. Do try to work together with your ex-spouse to come up with consistent rules among both households.
  • Focus on the Co-Parenting Relationship with your Ex.  There may be times you miss your partner or feel lonely. It can be tempting to seek out physical intimacy with your ex, even after separation/divorce. This can be confusing for kids. Many children hold on to false hope that their parents will reunite. Seeing mom or dad sleeping over could very well give them false hope. Set clear boundaries in the beginning with each other, and focus on parenting well.

 

 

#3 To Be Given Time To Adjust 

 

 

A divorce is a major change for your child. They need time to adjust. So, make sure you give your child or children plenty of notice before you or the other parent moves out of the home. Don’t wait to tell them about the divorce after you have already begun the process of moving out. Also, give your child ample time to adjust before moving on to a new romantic interest.

 

#4 To Not Be Forced To Choose A Side 

 

 

Parents in the midst of a contentious divorce often bring kids into the middle of it — even when they try not to. Don’t make your child choose a side by asking them to tell the court on the other parent. Don’t ask your child who they would rather live with. Children should not be made to choose between parents. Try to come to a decision with your ex-spouse about custody. 

 

There’s no question that divorce is difficult for children. But, by giving your child the things that they need most during the midst of a divorce, they can emerge from the situation just fine. Over time, they will adjust. One thing that can help make the transition smoother is therapy. A therapist can work with you on creating a stable, calm environment for your child and can work with your child on coping with their feelings and concerns. 

 

Annie Miller is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides psychotherapy to families, children, and couples. Click the button below to get in contact with Annie.