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Effects of Divorce on Children – 4 Parenting Tips to Help Your Child Cope

How will my child handle the divorce? Is the earnest question almost every divorced parent asks. Divorced parents not only have the hard task of adjusting to the divorce themselves, but they also need to lead their children through the adjustment stage. Many parents have a lot of concern about helping their children adjust. The parents have so many questions that it can seem impossible to help their child figure everything out with the divorce. There are ways of helping your child transition though-and you can be the one who initiates these to help your child deal with the effects of divorce. Here are four suggestions you can start immediately to help the adjustment period go smoothly.

  1. Keep open communication. It is absolutely vital that you are talking things through with your child. Tell your child what is going on-and give as much information as you feel comfortable. Talk in neutral tones without resorting to anger or bitterness over your ex. For example, if you and your ex are having trouble agreeing on things in court, you could tell your child “Your mother and I are having trouble agreeing on some important things. Because of that we are having a judge help us make the best decision. We both love you very much and we want to make decisions that will make everyone happy. The court will help us do that.” This gives the child information so they know what’s going on but doesn’t assign blame. The child is going to come to conclusions regardless of the information that’s given-so you want to be the one who is giving that information and helping them draw appropriate conclusions.
  2. Reassure the child of your love. The worry that most parents have is that their child will blame himself for the divorce. You can easily combat this idea by directly telling the child that it isn’t his fault and that you love him. Repeat this often. Any time any new complication with the divorce comes up, reassure the child that it isn’t his fault and that both parents love him. Also, ask direct questions to your child so that you know what she is thinking. Ask if the child feels like it is her fault the divorce happened. Then let her know that it isn’t her fault and her behavior wasn’t the cause. Then reassure her of your love.
  3. Let your child grieve. Don’t expect your child to hide any negative emotions. Just like you will have to grieve over the lost relationship, your child will need to as well. Let your child be sad-and talk to her about her sadness. Let her know it is okay to feel sad and that she will work through it. If your son is angry, talk to him about his anger. It is normal for the children to feel this way.
  4. Come up with a good child custody schedule. This is vitally important because the visitation schedule will determine when the kids see their parents until they are 18 years old. Come up with a custody agreement that allows the children to see both parents as often as possible (or as often as is reasonable considering the parents and the cause of divorce). Try to have both parents allowed to come to various events of the child (like baseball games or piano recitals). And, as you’re making the schedule, inform your child of what is going on. Tell them who they’ll be spending time with, and ask for any appropriate input. This will let your child feel enabled and also let them know they will get to see both of their parents.

Children can make it through a divorce. If you are proactive as a parent and lead them through the process, you can all make it through to continue leading a happy life.

Chloe Nelsun is a relationship expert who studies ways of communicating between families.

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