Divorce with kids is always hard. If you are thinking that divorce is difficult for you, imagine how it affects your child. His/her world is shattered and everything they knew is changed overnight.
For children, especially at a younger age, parents are associated with something permanent, everlasting, something that will be there forever. For children there is no husband and wife - there is only one entity - parents. Parents are always loving and forgiving unlike everybody and everything else, they are always there for a child. Parents are the base that holds a child’s world together.
It does not mean though that you should not get divorced if your marriage makes you unhappy. It just means that during this difficult time you should pay a lot of attention to your child’s feelings. Luckily, there are a few things that you could do to make a divorce easier on your child.
5 Steps To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce
Step 1. According to research the most devastating effect of the divorce for children is being exposed to parental conflict. That is why during divorce with your spouse it is very important to establish friendly co-parenting relationships. Even if you still have your differences with your spouse, your child does not need to see you fighting all the time. Try to put your differences aside and never fight in front of your child!
Step 2. Scientific facts suggest that by nature people cope with a situation much better if they feel there is something they can do in response. A likelihood of your child successfully getting over the divorce is greater if you let him/her believe that they can do something about it. For instance, you could tell your child: “Daddy and I want to live separately because living together doesn’t make us happy anymore”. A child may come up with some ideas like – “You should go on a date with daddy”. Which you should definitely try, even if it doesn’t work out. This way your child would feel like he/she had a chance to do something about it and cope with the divorce easier and faster.
Step 3. According to another study, one of the most important coping mechanism for kids is a mother-child relationship and its quality. If a child is close to their mother and they can openly discuss and share their feelings, and then the coping process could be faster and smoother. Close relationships with a mother can make a child feel less threatened by stressful events, decrease negative emotions and provide a shoulder to cry on when needed.
Step 4. A psychological study suggests the importance of the so-called third-party forgiveness effect. The understanding, support, and approval from your parents and friends is very important for your child. Ask your friends and parents to accept the divorce and its consequences and do not speak negatively about your spouse and divorce itself.
Step 5. According to a study, psychosocial stress from divorce could potentially cause mental health issues, nightmares and social anxiety in children. Some evidence suggests that when the divorce coping process is engaged and open it is associated with reduced mental health problems in children. And when the divorce coping efforts are disengaged it is typically associated with higher mental health risks. What does it mean to you?
If you are open with your child about the divorce and the reasons behind it, it will make it easier for your child to cope with stress. Don’t try to avoid the subject of divorce with your child. When telling your child about the divorce try to be as open as you could be. Discuss his/her feelings and emotional reactions towards separation and explain yours. It is always easier to cope with something when you understand what caused it. Do not keep your child in the dark.
Divorce with kids is a very stressful event for both parents and children. If there is the slightest chance you could give your family another chance and save your marriage – give it a try. If divorce is unavoidable try to make it easy on yourself and your child. Never fight in front of your child or speak ill of your spouse in front of your child. Ask your parents and friends to be supportive and do not take sides. Stay positive and try to find a new co-parental routine that will work for all!