Regardless of whether you have kids or not, getting a divorce is a painful and stressful experience for everyone involved. However, when you and your spouse have children, things tend to get far more complicated. Your precious babies might not understand what is happening and why, and might even blame themselves for your divorce.
Therefore, it is extremely important that you help kids adjust to divorce by getting them to understand what is going on and teaching them how to cope with this traumatic event in their lives.
Here are 7 strategies you can use to help kids adjust to divorce.
1. Help Them Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Your Ex
Just because the love you felt for your partner is gone, doesn’t mean your kids stopped loving them too. Your ex-spouse is still their parent and one of the most important people on the planet to them, so don’t make them choose between the two of you. Encourage them to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your partner. This will help them feel less stressed and conflicted. No matter how you feel about your ex right now, avoid talking badly about them or blaming them for the divorce because your kids need both of you.
2. Talk to Them
If possible, both parents should have a conversation with the kids and explain the divorce to them in a simple way. Let your children know that you and your ex will live in separate homes from now, but that this doesn’t change the way you feel about them. Help them understand that they are loved and that this divorce is not their fault in any way. Reassure your kids that they will always have both Mom and Dad, and explain how things will work.
3. Healthy Outlets Are a Must
Although you are also hurting and going through a stressful period in your life, put yourself in your kids’ shoes and try to understand how this divorce is affecting them. Their whole world has been turned upside down and they feel like they have no control over what is happening in their lives. Therefore, you need to ensure they have a positive outlet in which they can channel those unhappy feelings and help them find an effective way to deal with negative emotions. Since every kid is different, make sure you choose the right type of outlet for your child. For some youngsters just having a friend to talk to is enough to make them feel less stressed, while others need to engage in some sort of physical activity in order to blow off steam. Signing your children up for sports such as boxing for kids can help them handle their negative feelings, gain control of their emotions, and become more confident and self-aware.
4. Help Them Feel Secure
Your kids spent their whole life in one home and suddenly they have two. To them, this new house/apartment is a strange place they don’t feel comfortable in, so in order to help them adjust to this new lifestyle and realize that this new home is their home as well, include them in picking out the furniture or let them design their own room. If your child is still very young, having a teddy bear or a blanket they can bring with them to both homes can help them feel more comfortable and secure.
5. Rip off the Band-Aid
When you decide to get a divorce, make sure you get good legal counsel. This way you will be able to settle disputes as quickly as possible and move on with your life. Dragging out the divorce will only hurt you and your kids even more since you won’t be able to establish a new routine and adjust to it. Find a good lawyer who will help you work through sticky situations and make this process as painless as possible. Keep in mind that some divorce attorneys will unnecessarily complicate matters just so they can maximize their profits, so keep your eyes open and get a second opinion if you feel suspicious.
6. Keep Them in the Loop
The last thing you want to do is make them feel like someone has pulled the rug out from under them. Waking up one day and realizing that mom or dad has moved out can be a traumatic experience, so make this transition as painless as possible by keeping them in the loop and letting them know exactly when a parent will move out. Your kids will cope with things more easily if they know where their mom or dad is going, so take them to visit the second home before the moving truck parks in the driveway.
7. Be Patient
During this stressful time, it’s not uncommon for children to act up, withdraw or refuse to listen. Arm yourself with patience and understand that your kids need your support more than ever. Keep the communication channels open and you will see that with time your kids will adapt to the changes.
Although getting a divorce affects the whole family, keep in mind that kids are more resilient than you think. This period won’t be easy for them, but with the right strategies in place to help kids adjust to divorce, you can help them bounce back from challenges life throws their way.
Ian Lewis is a father, writer, and a fitness nut. He’s passionate about many forms of strength training and spent years lifting all kinds of heavy objects. His favorite quote: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.