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How to Help Children Through a Divorce

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

A divorce is rarely simple or easy.

There are issues related to property, income, savings, debt, and so on. And when there are children involved, you add in the extra complications of separate housing, child custody, child support and, of course, simply explaining to your children what is happening.

Divorces are already primed to be emotional, but the presence of kids pretty much guarantees that you won’t be approaching things from a completely rational perspective. An experienced family lawyer will be able to use their knowledge both to make sure you don’t make bad decisions in the divorce process and also to help you get your children through this trying time without irreparably harming your relationship.

Now, this doesn’t mean that divorce lawyers fancy themselves experts on child psychology. But they’ve helped enough families through this process before that can point you in the direction of useful resources designed to assist you in explaining a divorce to your children. Here are a few of the tips that past clients have told us were the most helpful.

Keep communicating. In the midst of a divorce, communication between parents may not be at its best. However, it’s necessary that you communicate in a civil manner together for (and with) your children. This means sitting down with them to explain the events and clearly lay out what will happen now.

Whatever the extenuating circumstances behind the divorce, this is not the time to throw your spouse under the bus. Tell your children how much you and your spouse love them, and let them ask questions, share their feelings, and possibly even get upset with you and your spouse.

This is not going to be easy, and you have to let your children experience their emotions in their own way. Provide them a safe place to communicate, and share as much as you feel is healthy for your children to know.

Limit the disruption. When kids are involved, do not make a divorce a drawn out drama between you and your spouse. Your focus now needs to be on keeping your children happy and healthy, and preventing as much disruption in their lives as possible.

This is definitely difficult, but respecting one another as parents will show your children that you are still going to be a family. Make sure that your children’s needs are being met, and be willing to adapt if a custody schedule conflicts with school, or a child’s needs in general. Be flexible, and give your children time to come around. If they see that not too much has changed about their lives, and that you and your spouse seem to be recovering well, they will accept the change much easier.

Learn the “Don’t Do’s.” As divorcing or newly divorced parents, there are a couple of things you should never do.

  • Involve your children in the arguments between you and your spouse

  • Surprise your children with the details of your divorce, or move them out unexpectedly

  • Insult or belittle your spouse in front of the children

  • Make your children feel guilty when they spend time with your ex-spouse

  • Ignore their emotions or refuse to discuss the divorce

  • Overshare – your kids don’t need to know every detail about your ending marriage

The most important thing you can do as a parent going through a divorce is to stress to your children that they are loved. When they witness their parents going through a tough divorce, or saying and doing things that show their parents are no longer in love with one another, kids begin to question how unconditional their parent’s love really is. Ensure them that the divorce is not about them, and that your love for them is non-negotiable and never ending.