When it comes to protecting your children through the divorce process, there’s no single solution. Every family and situation is different. But there are some general guidelines that can help kids of all ages adjust to their changing world more easily. Below are several suggestions.
- Encourage your kids to discuss their feelings. Divorcing parents need to encourage their kids to say what they’re thinking and feeling about the breakup. Be prepared for angry outbursts: most children feel a sense of loss when a family dissolves and may blame you or your ex- or both. Be patient and answer their questions. Children sometimes blame themselves for the breakup, so be ready to assure them that this is not the case.
- Keep your feelings about your ex away from your kids. This can be really hard to do, especially if you have good reason to feel bitter toward your ex. But avoid saying bad things about them in front of the children. Research has indicated that a critical factor in a kid’s ability to adjust to a divorce is the amount of parental conflict they witness.
- Don’t try to hide the truth. While it’s never acceptable to vent angry feelings about your spouse to the kids, it’s also important to be truthful. If your ex abandoned the family, acknowledge what happened but don’t try to explain or condemn their behavior. Answer your children’s questions truthfully but neutrally.
- Do not to use your kids as go-betweens. Communicate with your ex-partner without putting the children in the middle. Don’t ask them to report back on what is happening in the other household- it’s not fair to them. When you need to discuss important issues related to the children, communicate with your ex directly.
- Help the kids adjust to changing family dynamics – particularly if you or your ex are remarrying. Blended families and remarriages are one of the trickiest aspects of the divorce process. Prepare for an adjustment period that can be tumultuous at times. Maintain an open line of communication and schedule one-on-one time with your kids. Watching for signs of anxiety or stress can prevent problems from getting out of hand.
- Take care of yourself. Reduce your own stress levels by asking for support from friends and family when you need it. By showing your kids how to take good care of their minds and bodies during hard times, you will help them become more resilient as their own lives progress.
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