Do you have any advice for helping children whose parents are going through divorce?
It’s nearly impossible for young children to fully understand divorce. Heartache and confusion affects their life in many ways. They have a lot of questions that sometimes the parents don’t even know the answers to. When kids are stuck in the middle of this new fearsome situation it shows in their schoolwork, social life and parent/child relationship. Most of the time they even believe that it’s their fault. This can allow them to feel guilt and have poor self esteem. What are your tips on helping children through this major life change?
I know for sure what not to do. Don't take a side. Don't ever indicate to a child that one parent is any sort of "lesser person" than the other. Trashing a child's parent serves no purpose and always hurts the child who likely loves both parents and shouldn't have to hear anything bad about either. Invite the child to talk openly but don't force it. Try to listen without judgment.
Make sure the child knows that the divorce is a result of the adults not getting along and making the decision to part. Don't let the child think that he/she had anything to do with the breakup of the marriage or that the divorce means that either parent loves the child any less. Talk about how things will change so that the child will know what to expect. Don't blame or speak poorly about the other parent. Ask periodically how the child is doing with the changing situation and what is missed the most, then see if a solution may be found, i.e., if the non-custodial parent used to read a bedtime story, have him/her read to the child over the phone before bedtime.
My thoughts parallel desand's: make sure the children KNOW divorce is NOT their fault. Nothing they did or did not do caused the divorce. Divorce is a decision made by parents, who are adults.
Reassure them that the parents love them.
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