Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Helping Children Cope with Divorce

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Sitting on my couch with my sister, I start to cry as my parents tell us that they are getting a divorce. At 8 years old, I do not completely understand what divorce means and how my life is about to change. My mom hugs me and starts to cry. My sister asks if the divorce is her fault and starts to cry as well. All three of us continue to cry on the couch as my dad grabs his suitcase and walks out the door. After that, everything seems to start moving in fast forward and nothing feels real. I want my dad to come back, I want to keep living in the only house I have ever known. I want my old life back.

Dealing with divorce is difficult, especially when children are involved. Doctor Kevin D. Arnold, Ph.D and director of the the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy in Columbus Ohio, gives 6 tips to help parents talk with their children about divorce.

  • Gather the whole family and tell everyone. Make no child responsible for the divorce news (or for keeping secrets).
  • Don't assume how children will react, and let them feel all the feelings, even when those feelings are confusing to you.
  • When you decide to end the marriage, end it swiftly. No one will win either way.
  • Be supportive of painful reactions and answer difficult questions honestly.
  • Take responsibility for the divorce and be unified in your message to the children.

Change is always difficult. Here are some tips from my own experience that might help make things easier for children.

  • As best you can, tell children exactly what is happening and be clear about how their lives are to be affected. Even with small children, this communication is huge and helps kids realize that they are not at fault. Kids need love and openness during this time.

  • Don't fight in front of your children. Although it is a difficult time, showing aggression towards each other solves nothing and can make children become aggressive as well. If you cannot communicate face-to- face, email or text.

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  • If sharing custody, make a consistent and fair schedule.  If your children are older, give them a voice about where they would like to be. Looking back I respect my parents for allowing me to see both my parents as often as possible and having a consistent schedule.

  • Never talk bad about your ex-spouse to your children. Your children love both of you, and saying negative things about each other can make them feel like they need to choose a parent. Not only is this unfair, but it makes the situation more hostile for the kids. Being angry is okay, but talking with friends or family is healthier than involving your children

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