7 Tips For How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce In America, the divorce rate for first marriages hoovers near 41%, meaning nearly half of all children grow up in a home affected by divorce (Learn more). Just because a marriage comes to an end doesn’t mean children have to suffer through countless consequences. With divorce rates on the rise, research is continually being conducted on how best to raise kids while going through a divorce. Research reveals there are many ways to help your child cope with a divorce. Here are some of the best professional tips available for keeping kids happy, healthy, and confident, even during times of change and conflict.

1. Minimize Daily Disruptions In Your Child’s Life

Divorce creates a great deal of change in the home, especially if one parent moves out, or if the entire family moves.  Change is difficult for everyone, especially children who find it hard to understand what is going on and why. While divorce naturally comes with many changes, it’s important to limit as many of these changes as possible for your child. Sticking to normal routines will help make kids feel more stability and less anxiety.

2. Give Your Child Love And Comfort

Even though it is so far from the truth, children often feel that they are to blame for their parent’s divorce, which is why kids need a lot of extra love and encouragement during this time. Hug your child, talk to them, and let them know you are here for them no matter what. Showing your child a lot of love can be very reassuring during this time. That doesn’t mean you should spoil your child; they still need structure and discipline in order to feel normal.

3. Dealing With A No-Show Parent

Both mother and father play an important role in a child’s life, and even after a divorce both parents should remain involved with their child. Easier said than done, of course. It can be very frustrating, to say the least, if one parent continually fails to show up when scheduled. If one parent is regularly absent from a child’s life it’s only natural for a child to feel responsible. While you might not be able to control the actions of your child’s other parent, you can help your child understand their mother or father’s continuous absence has nothing to do with them.

Edward Teyber, ph.D., is a professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, as well as the author of Helping Children Cope With Divorce. His advice for a no-show parent is to be open with your child and say something like, “Even adults make big mistakes, and sometimes they hurt the people they love. Canceling at the last minute — even when he knows that the visit means so much to you — is wrong. But it doesn’t mean you’re not loved.”

If one parent is often a no-show, always have an alternate plan that will boost your child’s mood in the instance they don’t show up.

4. Avoid Bad Mouthing Your EX

It’s easy to become frustrated with your ex; after all there is a reason you split up in the first place. Still, bad mouthing your child’s father or mother in front of them is never a good idea and can lead to unnecessary stress on your child. Just because you can’t get along as a married couple doesn’t mean you can’t work as a team in regards to raising your child. Be kind, courteous, and flexible when working with your ex, if only to make life easier on the kids. It’s no easy task, but it will benefit your child and make them feel less stress and turmoil.

5. Allow For Open, Honest Conversations

Kids have many questions about divorce and so it’s important to be open and honest with them. Make sure to comfort and legitimize your child’s feelings so that they feel able to talk to you and express what they are thinking and going through emotionally.

If you want kids to be honest with you, you should be honest with them as well. During these conversations address the things that will and will not change due to the divorce, this allows kids to know what to expect and takes away some uncertainty.

6. Don’t Blame Anyone

Humans naturally want to blame someone or something for everything negative that happens in life, but the blame game doesn’t help anyone. There might be something or someone to blame your divorce on, but it’s important to push these thoughts aside when discussing the reasons for your separation with your child. You don’t want to make one parent look like the ‘bad guy.’ Just because someone doesn’t make a good husband or wife doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the chance to be a good mom or dad in the eyes of their children.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help From Others

You don’t have to go at it alone, there are many support groups, counselors, and programs available for families going through divorce. Getting outside help can be a great way to help make the adjustment in a healthy manner.

A Wish List From Children Affected By Divorce

The University of Missouri has compiled the following wish list based on children’s wants and needs during and after a divorce.

-Children want both parents to remain involved in their life.

This includes phone calls, visits, letters, and consistent interactions. As soon as one parent stops being involved, children can feel unloved and unwanted.

-Children don’t want to hear their parents fighting.

Kids are attentive, they hear fights carrying on in the next room and it upsets them. Especially if the fight has anything to do with them, in which case they may feel responsible for the turmoil. It’s not always easy for parents going through a divorce to be civil and get along, but it’s so important for the kids that you do.

-Don’t talk bad about the other parent or make kids pick sides.

By bad mouthing your child’s mom or dad you make them feel like they have to take sides and can’t openly love both parents. Kids should be able to enjoy hanging out with both parents without feeling like they have to take sides or act a certain way around one parent.

-Don’t use your child as a middleman for communication.

Parents should be mature enough to talk to one another without relying on their child to deliver messages.

Learn how you can tell your child about divorce here

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