We all know that divorce is a difficult time for adults. However, divorce can also leave lasting effects in your child’s development. In your child’s eyes, divorce may seem like a literal end of the world, especially when child custody debates leave their natural loyalties torn. Supporting your children during this time is crucial for their immediate and long term health.
Your children are intelligent, and the best way to help them understand the situation is to talk about it with them. Be honest about the situation. The situation is scary enough without feeling left in the dark. While divorce is stressful, disappointed expectations built up by promises that parents are working things out can destroy your child’s faith in adults. These “kind” lies also teach your children that their worlds are unstable. You define your child’s world. An identity crisis is inevitable, but it’s much healthier to allow your child to determine their emotions based on facts rather than rumors. Remember, children need facts, not opinions. Divorces are rarely amicable, but venting about your personal frustrations to your children creates unhealthy biases and distorts expectations.
Family and Friends
Removing your children from the center of the divorce struggle is one of the best ways to help them retain their identity. It gives them the opportunity to digest the facts of the situation with as little interference as possible. This tactic works especially well for younger children, particularly toddlers and infants, who are less likely to remember the proceedings if they do not absorb your emotional struggles. Older children, however, can also benefit. By enjoying the shelter and care of extended family and close friends, children of all ages can potentially expand their definition of love, support, and family. The more threads a child can depend on in their web of connections, the less likely a break in the family will impact their perception of security.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
As a parent, you make sure to stop and assure your children that you still love them, even if you are living apart or preparing to take a new spouse. Your children soak in these promises, but it’s also crucial to demonstrate affection and continued interest both during and after a divorce. Unfulfilled promises are worse than never making such promises in the first place. One of the best ways to assure your children that life will go on after a divorce is by attending school and extracurricular events throughout the process. If you cannot amicably attend the same event, you should work out a schedule for attending important events in turns. Small things also leave a lasting impression. Simply buying your children treats and toys during a divorce leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, spending time with your children is a better demonstration of affection. Even if your children are not feeling sociable, simply being in the same house and being available demonstrates genuine concern and interest.
Divorce is not easy for your children, but as the parent, you can support them through this process. Always be honest and factual about what is happening, including matters of child custody. This prevents the situation from devolving into a nebulous period of vague fears and distrust. It’s the perfect time to reach out to family and friends who can help strengthen your children’s support network. In the end, however, you need to demonstrate your love with time, presence, and attention.