There’s no doubt that divorces can be hard on kids. Between the emotional and logistical changes they present, parental splits change a child’s entire world in one fell swoop.
Still, children are resilient. With the right approach and support, helping your children adjust after divorce can be a smooth process. Kids can and do adjust to divorced parents every day. Keep reading to learn what kinds of stressors kids face during and after their parents’ divorces and strategies you can use to help them adjust to your split and move on.
What You Need to Know About Helping Your Children Cope With Divorce
What are some of the stresses children face when their parents split up? While every child is different, a few issues are all but universal. While you’re adjusting to your newly single status, you should also remember that your kids are experiencing problems like:
1. Changing Routines
Children thrive on routines. Even teenagers rely on a regular routine to provide a sense of stability in a time when their bodies and brains are going through significant changes. Even the most amicable divorce will force your children to change their routines since they won’t be living with both parents all the time.
Without the stability of their regular routine, kids can feel stressed and confused. It’s common for children of all ages to act out when their regular habits are disrupted, and that’s even more frequent during and after a divorce. They try to push boundaries to learn the new rules and what’s acceptable in their new routine.
The first social bonds a child makes are with their parents. Before they make friends with their peers, they rely on their parents for socialization and interaction. Losing constant access to a parent can put stress on that bond. Furthermore, when raising children on your own, you’re likely to have less time to give to your kids, stressing them further.
That means that after a divorce, many children can feel intensely lonely. Even if they still interact with their other friends and family regularly, they’re not receiving the same focused attention that they’re used to. Lonely children are often withdrawn and quiet, both in school and at home.
Your child doesn’t understand the details of your relationship with your spouse. Unless you’ve been getting in regular fights in front of them, your kid probably sees your relationship as one of the fundamentals in their life. When you end your marriage, it can upend a child’s understanding of the world by showing even things they think are constant can end and change.
That can make kids feel deeply insecure. Without the proper support, children of divorce can feel like they don’t have anyone they can rely on. They may even feel like every relationship is temporary. As a result, some children may act clingy to try to hold onto relationships, while others may become closed off as they try to protect themselves from getting hurt.
4. Trust Issues
Insecurity directly leads to trust issues. If your child isn’t feeling safe and secure, they can lose trust in you and other authority figures in their life. A child that feels ignored or abandoned by a parent may project that onto other adults in their life and stop trusting that anyone will help them when they need it.
Trust issues may lead to problems with lying and lashing out. A child may yell at people more because they’re angry or lie about their problems to see if people will respond and help them.
Tips and Tricks for Helping Your Children Adjust to Your Divorce
With all of those potential issues, it’s clear that kids need a lot of support living through their parents’ divorce. You can help your children adjust more effectively by thinking about what they’re experiencing. These five practices can go a long way in helping your children and giving your kids the stability to thrive during and after your split.
1. Keep Rules Consistent
Whether you’re co-parenting with your ex-spouse or have full custody, you must keep rules consistent. Continue to enforce the same rules and discipline you used before the divorce whenever possible. This lets children know what to expect and cuts down on some of the upheavals a divorce causes in your kids’ lives.
If things need to change, talk to your kids about why the change is happening. Explain what’s different and why you’ll be enforcing different boundaries. Then make sure your co-parent enforces those boundaries the same way to keep your children’s experience consistent no matter where they live.
2. Set Schedules and Stick to Them
Another way to maintain consistency is by setting up new routines as soon as possible. These routines can be small, like getting ready for school at a new house, or larger, like going out for ice cream every Friday night. They should also include strict adherence to parenting schedules, so kids know when they’ll see their other parent next.
Again, children thrive on routine. By giving them new habits to follow, they’ll have stable ground to stand on while processing their feelings about your divorce.
3. Respect Your Child’s Emotions
Focusing on anything other than your own emotions can be challenging if you’re going through a difficult divorce. However, your first responsibility is always to your kids. Do your best to trust your experienced divorce lawyer to handle the details of your divorce and spend more energy talking with your kids. The more time you spend with your kid talking to them about their emotions, the more support they will feel.
4. Connect Your Child with a Supportive Community
This should be relatively easy if you’ve fought to keep your home in your divorce. Your child should still be able to attend the same school and interact with the friends and teachers they already know.
Even if you’ve moved, you should still prioritize community connections for your children. Schedule regular playdates with their friends, let them spend time with their grandparents, and enroll them in local activities. This reminds them that at least part of their life hasn’t changed and gives them additional supportive people to talk to about their emotions. It also gives them something else to think about rather than dwelling on the divorce.
5. Be Professional with Your Ex
You don’t need to be friends with your ex-spouse. You don’t even need to like them. However, you owe your children to be polite and professional around your spouse, especially if your kids are nearby.
Shouting at your ex-spouse or talking badly about them to your kids puts them in the middle of your adult relationship. They deserve to be protected from any anger you feel towards your ex. Maintaining a professional relationship with your ex gives your kids one less thing to be upset by and helps them maintain a positive relationship with both of you.
Give Your Kids the Best Possible Chance
You didn’t make the decision to end your marriage lightly. Now that you’ve decided to split up, you need to think about helping your kids handle the way their lives are changing.
Divorce is often harder on kids than it is on parents. However, by supporting your kids, thinking about their emotions, and providing a consistent environment, they will bounce back faster than you’d think.
Of course, children will still act out occasionally. Don’t hold it against them. They’re in a situation they have no control over, so they’ll be stressed no matter what. Your job is to help them get through it and keep the stress of your split to a minimum.
The best way to do that is by ensuring your divorce is as efficient and professional as possible. If you’re considering ending your marriage, reach out to an expert divorce attorney to learn how you can handle the process and put minimal stress on your kids.