Helping Your Child Through a Divorce: A Parent’s Guide

The divorce rate has been declining for a few decades now, which sounds like good news. But if you’re considering a divorce, it probably doesn’t feel that way. Divorce is agonizing in almost every circumstance, but especially if children are involved. Many parents stay together because they’re scared that divorcing will mess up their children for life. 

Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science even found that children of divorce are more likely to gain weight. That sounds bad, but a lot depends on the particular situation. Keep reading to find out how you, as a parent, can help your child manage during the divorce process. 

Keep Things As Civil As Possible

Parents who can work together even in divorce are putting their kids in a lot better position than those who fight nonstop. Now, that’s easier said than done in some cases. Divorce is like marriage in that it only takes one person to blow things up. But that one person won’t be able to stop the divorce forever. They can try and stall, but no-fault divorces are legal in every state. In other words, a marriage can be dissolved just because one person wants to. There’s no need to prove things like divorce or adultery. 

But if your spouse does something that feels designed to hurt you, take a deep breath and ask, “How will this affect the kids?” If the kids won’t notice, then it might be in your best interest to work it out on your own. Talk to a friend. If that’s not getting it done, consider researching Manhattan therapists and finding one who is accepting new patients. But don’t put your child in the middle of an issue between you and your estranged spouse.

If you can’t convince your ex to work with you, then try to get through the divorce as quickly as possible. A good divorce is better than a bad marriage, yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to reunite with your spouse if they refuse to be mature during divorce proceedings. Your child does not deserve to grow up in a home where their parents resent each other. 

Don’t Go Into Detail

If you haven’t yet told your children that a divorce is happening, experts say you should take time to plan what you’ll say. Emphasize to your kids that your love for them has not changed a bit. Some things will be different, but not that. Also know that your kids may ask you questions that you weren’t expecting, like “Can I still go to a sleepover at Jenna’s house on Friday?” You’re thinking long-term, but they may still be thinking very short-term. That’s understandable. Their reaction may be different next week than it is the day you tell them, so be ready for a wide range of reactions. 

A lot of parents are afraid that their kids will blame themselves for the divorce. That may lead them to overshare about the exact reasons for the divorce. Saying, “It had nothing to do with you and everything to do with your father sleeping with my best friend” may feel good at the moment, but it’s going to confuse your child. Also, divorce courts don’t generally like it when one parent badmouths the other.

So stick with something like “It had nothing to do with you.” If you’re leaving because of abuse that your child has witnessed, it’s OK to say things like “Mom has a temper, and we’re safer somewhere else.” But don’t list all the reasons why your marriage failed. If they ask about it when they’re much older, you can consider opening up then or even handing over copies of your public divorce records. But don’t fill their heads with any information they don’t need, especially not when the divorce is still happening.