It’s estimated that about half of all children in America will see their parents’ marriage end in divorce. That’s a high number of children who are going to go through the process of divorce with their parents. You want to do everything you can to help your child get through your divorce as painlessly as possible.
Children have a tendency to internalize things. You might ask them repeatedly if they are alright, have any questions, or are concerned about how your family will be moving forward. If all you get from them is a resounding, “no, I’m fine”, please realize that this may not be the case. They might be anxious about the future, feel at fault for things not working out, and take on ‘adult problems’ in a very real way. This anxiety can harm their physical and mental health. Keeping an open dialogue about the process is the first step. Make sure your child understands that they have the right to voice their opinions about what is going on in your family.
There might even be concerns that may sound silly to an adult, but are fairly important to a small child. For example, they might be thinking, “What will happen on Christmas?” Explaining the ‘ins and outs’ of upcoming events might help put their mind at ease. Reassure them that no matter what happens in their day to day life, although it might change, it will be something they will adjust to. Both parents still love them no matter what happens.
Working Out a Shared Parenting Plan
Working out a shared parenting plan that is best for the children can be one of the hardest parts of a divorce. Usually, these things go by a pretty strict schedule and making sure your child understands what is going to happen is vital to their comfort level. Make an easy to read schedule up on the wall in calendar form, so they know exactly when they will be with which parent. Have this at both parents’ houses so the children aren’t ever confused as to how their scheduling will play out. Even very small children can be taught to look at a weekly calendar, and see what days they will be with either of you.
Books Can Help
There are some excellent books out there, meant for children, that can help to alleviate some fears when going through a divorce. Read them to your child, or allow them, if they are old enough, to read them with you. Then you can talk about how these books relate to your own family situation with them. For the 7-years-old and under crowd, check out “Two Homes” by Claire Masurel or “Dinosaurs Divorce” by Laurene and Marc Brown. For older kids, try reading “How It Feels When Parents Divorce” by Jill Krementz, which details children from 7-16, and how they experienced their parents’ divorce. Reading about what other children went through can help your child to articulate their own feelings.
Seek Out a Counselor
If you feel like you aren’t reaching your child properly throughout the divorce process, or that they might need additional outside help to deal with all the changes, it may be time to see a family counselor. A trained professional can often bring out the desire to be a part of discussion in children, better than just you and your partner alone. This is especially true if your child is having severe anxiety about the situation resulting in stomach aches, nervousness, or failing grades. Special attention needs to be paid to teenagers, as well as those who are at risk for troublesome behavior through alcohol and drugs. Even if they say the typical, “I’m fine”, their feelings might be deep-seated, leading them to withdraw or act out.
ONDA Family Law Firm , in the Dallas, Texas area, is ready to assist you with your divorce case. We’ll try to make the entire process as flawless as we can for you during this difficult time for your entire family. We firmly understand the stress it can put on everyone involved. Talk to us about the special needs of any children in the marriage, who might be having a hard time with your divorce.