As a parent, it’s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your children the right support through your divorce or separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
There are many ways you can help your kids adjust to separation or divorce. Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. A divorce or separation is a transitional time, but you can powerfully reduce your children’s stress by making their well-being your top priority. Ultimately, conflict between parents—separated or not—can be very damaging for kids; and it is crucial to avoid putting your children in the middle or make them feel like they have to choose between their parents. Here are three tips on helping, children transition during this difficult time:
- Support: Support your children by helping them express emotions, and commit to truly listen to their feelings without getting defensive. Your next job is reassurance—assuaging fears, straightening misunderstandings, and showing your unconditional love. The bottom line: kids need to know that your divorce isn’t their fault.
- Avoid Blaming: It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, such as infidelity, but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.
- Routines: While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new things at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives. Remember that establishing structure and continuity doesn’t mean that you need rigid schedules or that mom and dad’s routines need to be exactly the same. Creating some regular routines at each household and consistently communicating to your children on what to expect will provide your kids with a sense of calm and stability.