|Many kids believe that they had something to do with the
divorce. They may remember times when they argued with
their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble. They
may associate that conflict with their parents’ conflict and
blame themselves. Also, some children may worry that their
parents will stop loving them, or that they will never see one
of their parents. Sometimes young children do not
understand the meaning and permanence of divorce.
Children of divorce almost universally feel guilty about what
has happened—however irrational that reaction may seem.
They tend to believe the divorce was all their fault. Taking on
the blame for the breakup of the marriage is one way of
making sense out of events they do not understand. Guilt
commonly leads to feelings of not being good enough,
especially when one parent is less involved in the child's life
after the divorce. The child is left wondering "What did I do
that caused Mom or Dad not to want to spend time with me?"
Children need the opportunity to talk about why they feel at
fault and how they think they caused the divorce. These
conversations are unlikely to create or exacerbate a problem,
since the child already feels guilty. Parents do best by their
children when they enable them to talk out the inevitable
conflicts and confusion.
Treat your child’s confusion or misunderstandings with
patience. Reassure your children that both parents will
continue to love them and that they are not responsible
for the divorce. Gently clarify any misunderstandings about
the custody arrangements.
Many children go through their parents’ divorce with relatively
few problems or permanent negative effects. However, for
other children, the effects of divorce can be traumatic and
long-lived. Changes in a child’s living arrangements, time with
parents, education and lifestyle can trigger the body’s fight-
or-flight response –- anger or fear. But when a child cannot
adequately express or mentally process those emotions, the
child may feel extremely powerless and “freeze.”
Different children in the same family may have a dramatically
different emotional reaction to the numerous changes related
to divorce. Your attitude shapes your children's attitude. Your
words and actions can either expose your children to
unnecessary emotional pain or help them develop in positive
Remember, helping you and your children through these
difficult times will lead to better mental health, which in turn
creates better health over all. Good over all health will also
lead to affordable term life insurance, which will ensure your
loved ones in the years to come.
Steps to reduce negative effects of a divorce on your
· Allow your children to communicate openly. Encourage
them to describe their feelings and express the sadness,
fear and anger they may be experiencing. This gives you an
opportunity to provide comfort and reassure them that they
will be loved and continue to be cared for and safe.
· Be honest about the potential for emotional trauma on
each of your kids. Some children respond to adversity by
withdrawing emotionally or freezing. These quiet children may
be more upset, and in greater need of help, than children
whose emotional upset is obvious.
· Find support for yourself and your children. It takes a
village to get things right. Reach out and ask for help from
friends, family members, religious and secular support
groups, counselors and therapists.
· Offer your children choices, whenever possible, to increase
their sense of power over their lives. These can include food
choices, clothing choices and other choices that don’t disrupt
your routines or endanger their well-being.
· Provide continuity. Children need the sense of continuity
provided by a certain amount of structure such as dependable
meal and bed times, leisure and work times.
Don’t expose your kids to marital conflict:
· Choose to focus on the strengths of all the family
· Develop an amicable relationship with your spouse, as soon
as possible, and be polite in your interactions.
· Do not argue with your spouse in front of your children or
on the phone.
· Refrain from talking with your children about details of your
spouse’s negative behavior.
Steps to take care of yourself:
· Avoid isolating yourself from people.
· Build your support group. Old friends may become
casualties in divorce battles.
· Exercise and play to relieve stress.
· Pray, meditate or practice the relaxation response.
· Provide and eat a balanced diet.
· Take care of your health and your children’s health.
Talking with children about separation and divorce:
When talking with your children about separation or divorce,
it is important to be honest, but not critical of your spouse.
Most children want to know why their lives are being upset.
Depending on the age of your children and reason for divorce,
this may require some diplomacy. As children mature, they will
probably want more information.
Here are a few suggestions:
· Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
· Be emotionally available to comfort them. Even if there
has been much conflict in the home, children may deeply
experience the loss of the leaving parent, or the loss of hope
· Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for
· Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with the child.
· Do not keep it a secret or wait until the last minute.
· Keep things simple and straight-forward.
· Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in
the living arrangements occur.
· Plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.
· Reassure your child that you both still love them and will
always be their parents.
· Remind your children of your love.
· Tell them about changes in living arrangements, school or
activities. Let them know when they will happen. But do not
overwhelm kids with details.
· Tell them that your marriage problems are not their fault.
Let them know they are not responsible for fixing them.
· Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
· Tell your child together.
Additional support for your child after separation or
Children need people with whom they can comfortably
express their negative emotions. Some kids may avoid talking
to their parents because they don’t want to hurt them or
because they feel guilty adding to their problems. Others may
feel intense anger and emotionally separate themselves from
their parents, closing the door to communication. In these
and other cases, children may benefit from having other
people to talk to. Kids also need skills to manage stress and
coping with situations over which they have no control.
Problem solving skills can help kids adjust to the issues of
Additional skills and support may come from:
· Faith-based counseling. Some religious organizations
provide support for families that are going through a divorce
or dealing with the effects of a divorce.
· Family friends. Visits or outings with family friends may
also be helpful for kids who need help adapting to a divorce.
· Relatives. Sometimes aunts, uncles or grandparents
may provide a familiar environment where kids can share their
deeper feelings. When parents do not want their children to
visit the ex-spouse’s relatives, it may help to honestly
question if that decision is in the best interest of the child.
· School counselors. In some schools, counselors may
provide services for a limited time.
· Teachers. Educators should be informed when parents
are separating or divorcing. They can provide valuable support
during the many hours your child is in school. It also helps
them understand your child’s behavior and prevent problems
with classmates and grades.
· Trained mental health professionals. A child or family
therapist can help children express and work out their
complicated emotions in a safe environment, and can help
normalize and stabilize the child’s situation. Some therapists
may also conduct counseling groups for children, which helps
decrease the sense of aloneness in this new life problem.
Tips on visitation:
|Attention Men: If You Are Facing Divorce,
You Might Want To Read This:
Learn How To Win Your Divorce Without
Losing Your Shorts or Your Kids!