Divorce is undoubtedly a challenging and emotionally charged experience for all parties involved, especially when children are in the picture. While the process itself may be difficult, we have seen first hand that it is possible for children to cope with, and even thrive through the process. When parents put their children first and are thoughtful about how they approach the divorce process, children can feel regulated and supported (sometimes even more than before, if a marriage was tumultuous). In this blog post, we'll explore actionable strategies that are tested and that we believe in.
In our work with families, we encourage parents to be honest with their children, but also share only information that is developmentally appropriate and helpful. Establishing open and honest communication is the foundation for helping children cope with divorce. Encourage your children to express their feelings, fears, and concerns without judgment. Create a safe space where they feel heard and understood, emphasizing that their emotions are valid. Reading books about divorce can be helpful. Be prepared to answer their questions truthfully, age-appropriately, and reassure them that the divorce is not their fault.
Children thrive on routine and stability. Conversely, an unpredictable and inconsistent environment is a recipe for anxiety. Amidst the changes brought about by divorce, strive to maintain a consistent schedule. Ensure that their daily routines, including mealtimes, bedtime, and extracurricular activities, remain as stable as possible. Consistency provides a sense of security and predictability during a time of upheaval.
Effective co-parenting is essential for the well-being of children post-divorce. This can be difficult for parents in a high-conflict divorce. Collaborate with your ex-spouse to establish consistent rules, expectations, and parenting styles. Demonstrate a united front when it comes to decisions affecting your children, promoting a sense of security and minimizing confusion. When discussing decisions or setting boundaries, employ statements like 'Your mom and I have talked about this and agreed that...' or 'Dad and I want to make sure we're on the same page about...' This collaborative language underscores the notion that both parents are actively involved in parenting decisions, reinforcing a unified front that can help ease any confusion or anxiety the children may be experiencing. It should also go without saying that you should never disparage your coparent. We often recommend parents do some reading about co-parenting or reach out to a co-parenting therapist or coach if needed.. .
Enlist the help of professionals such as therapists or counselors specializing in child psychology. These professionals can provide a neutral space for children to process their emotions and develop coping strategies. Additionally, seeking support for yourself as a parent can equip you with the tools to navigate the challenges and better support your children.
Encourage Healthy Expression:
Teach your children healthy ways to express their emotions, whether through art, journaling, sports, or other creative outlets. By providing alternative channels for emotional expression, you empower them to navigate their feelings in a constructive manner.
Foster Positive Relationships:
Encourage positive relationships with both parents and extended family members. Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children and ensure they feel loved and supported by both sides. One of the most powerful experience for children after divorce is to witness their parents together, getting along and supporting their child (such as watching a soccer game together, or having a meal together). A strong support network can contribute significantly to a child's emotional resilience.
Be Mindful of Transitions:
Acknowledge that transitions between households can be challenging for children. Be mindful of their feelings and emotions during these times. Establishing consistent routines and creating a sense of security in both homes can make transitions smoother and less stressful.
Helping kids thrive after divorce requires a concerted effort from both parents to prioritize their children's emotional well-being, and keep their children out of adult matters. By fostering open communication, maintaining consistent routines, collaborating on co-parenting, seeking professional support, encouraging healthy expression, fostering positive relationships, and being mindful of transitions, parents can create an environment that promotes resilience and helps their children navigate the challenges of divorce successfully. Through love, support, and understanding, parents can empower their children to not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity.