Divorce and Children

Divorce & Children 


Parental separation and divorce always requires adjustments for children, no matter how old they are. Children are often sad, afraid, angry and worried about who will take care of them.  Children need to know that their mother and father will still be their parents even though the marriage is ending and the parents will not live together.

During and after a parental separation and divorce, the one thing which influences children's emotional, social and psychological adjustment the most is the intensity of the conflict between the parents.  Schuylkill Elementary also runs counseling groups for children called Changing Families Club which supports a child adjusting to a parental separation.

SOME IMPORTANT THINGS FOR DIVORCING PARENTS TO REMEMBER

*Your child needs your support, understanding and love.

*Reassure your child that he/she did not cause the break up.

*You need not go into specific detail about the reasons for the divorce.  They will have little meaning to a young child.  Simple explanations will be easier to understand and less threatening.

*Maintain adult and parental roles and appropriate limits.  Children need this stability.

*Reassure the children that they will be safe and cared for and that they are loved and wanted.

*Seek emotional support from other adults such as friends, professionals and community resources as parents since support as they grieve the loss of a marriage.

*Encourage love and respect for the other parent.

*Do not put children in the middle of adult conflicts or ask them to be messengers or spies.

*Do not make negative comments about the other parent, the other parent's lifestyle or his/her new partner.

*Do not withhold the children from the other parent for revenge.

*Do not fight with the other parent in front of the children.

*When your child is with you, she may want to be with the missing parent.  This will probably be painful for you.  It might help to simply reassure your child that "I understand how you feel.  You'll see Mommy/Daddy tomorrow morning when she picks you up."

*Parents may feel overindulgent because they feel guilty about the divorce.  Buying lots of new toys won't help the way your child is feeling.  Love, understanding and time spent with a parent will be of greater help.

*Anger is a normal reaction to a painful loss.  Your child may need help to channel his anger in a constructive way.

*It is normal for children to feel they have the power to reunite their parents.  Reassure your child many times that she did not cause the break-up, that it is between grown-ups and that the divorce is final.

*Do not seek primary emotional support from children or put them in the position of being your best friend and confidante.  Your child is still a child.

*Additionally, it won't help him or her to be told that "You are now the man/woman of the house.  A child needs to know that adults are still in charge of her world.

*Some children may be afraid to go to bed or sleep alone.  Even though you may be lonely, too, it's not the best idea for you to let him sleep with you every night.  This confirms his fears that it really isn't safe to be alone  You can remind him that he has his own bed, just like he did before the divorce.

*Some of the things your child does may remind you of your former spouse and make you angry.  This is a normal reaction.  However, it's important for your child to feel good about both of her parents and what she learns from each of them.

*A divorce is a painful time as a family grieves and adjusts to changes.  With time, support, reassurance and love, you and your child can make it through this difficult time.  You are welcome to call your school counselor for more information on the resources available to help children and families.


Adapted from Divorce is a Grown Up Problem by Janet Sinberg and Nancy Gray, Children and Divorce by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Understanding the Effects of Separation and Divorce on your Child's Behavior by Edward Hanna.

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