A guide for parents in supporting their children through a divorce


Divorce is a stressful and confusing time for children. They usually feel sad, fearful, guilty and angry at their parents for deciding to get separated or to divorce. As a parent you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children. Helping your child to cope with divorce means providing stability and attending to your child’s needs with reassurance. By providing routines kids can rely on, children are reminded that they can count on you for stability, structure and care. Listening, empathy, patience and reassurance can minimize your child’s distress and help them learn to cope and adjust to new circumstances. A working relationship with your ex-spouse will assist in reducing children’s exposure to the harm that conflict between parents have. This may be challenging considering the transitional period you are in but can powerfully influence the way in which your child learns to cope with the situation.

Although it may be painful for you to explain the situation to your children, they still need to know what is going on. Thus as parents you need to:

  • Tell them that you have decided to divorce or separate;
  • Tell them that both their parents still love them;
  • Inform them of the changes that may take place to better prepare them.

In the midst of the emotional turmoil of a divorce parents need to be aware of the psychological needs of their children. These include:

  • The continued involvement of both parents in their life. If you are not involved, your child feels unloved and unimportant;
  • Making an effort to agree on matters related to the children. You need to stop fighting and try to get along. When you fight about your children they automatically think they did something wrong and feel guilty;
  • Children need to be able to express their love for both their parents. They need to be able to enjoy the time spent with each parent. If parents get jealous or upset, children feel like they need to take sides and love one parent more than the other;
  • Children need parents to communicate with each other directly so that the child is not put in the awkward position of a go-between;
  • It is important that you do not say bad things about the child’s other parent, rather say nothing at all.

A child wants both of his parents to be part of their lives. They count on both their parents to raise them, to teach them and help them through life. You have decided to get divorced; this does not imply that your child is also divorced from their father or mother. Children should never be punished by one or both parents for their decision. The bottom line is that children need to know your divorce isn’t their fault and that you will always be there for them.

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