Helping Children Cope with Divorce

The way parents react to divorce will directly affect their children’s ability to cope. Parents who are constantly angry lose their ability to be positive role models to their kids. The first priority must be the child/children’s emotional well being. Children must be allowed to grieve the loss they will feel. Parents can help them through this process by giving them the emotional support they will need to live with divorce.

Here are some ways to help your child cope:

  • Recognize that it is an adult issue. Stress to your children that they are not responsible for the marriage breaking up.
  • Explain to your children that while love between adults may change, love between parents and children never ends.
  • Prepare children for upcoming changes, but adult decisions should not be imposed on them. Parents also should not confide in their children about their problems. This puts children in the unfair position of having to choose whose side to be on.
  • Maintain a positive relationship with your spouse and do not talk negatively about him or her in front of the children.Children will always be a part of both families, and they need the support of both.
  • Be supportive and patient and give unconditional love. Divorce is as hard on kids as it is on parents.
  • Listen: Let them know that all feelings are acceptable and respond calmly when they express strong feelings.
  • Use language that reflects how he/she feels, such as “You feel sad and empty on the inside.”” This will help them release their emotions and build trust between parent and child.

  • Read books together about divorce to start a dialogue.
  • Through positive interactions with children, parents can help them overcome difficulties and move forward in their lives. They leave children a lasting legacy of love, and their children learn the value of a nurturing and supportive family. The biggest challenges of divorce is developing a co-parenting relationship that allows both parents to be effective partners in the work of raising healthy, happy children.

For more information:

  1. Families Apart: Ten Keys to Successful Co-Parenting by Melinda Blau (Perigree Books, 1993, $12.00). Hoe to help your children deal with the emotional turmoil of divorce and build a co-parenting relationship.
  2. Helping You Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way by M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, (Random House, 1999, $16.95). Based on the nationally renowned Sandcastles Divorce Therapy Program.
  3. Don’t Divorce Your Children by Jennifer Lewis, M.D. (1999, $14.95). Helps parents understand their children’s needs and describes strategies to ensure the continuation of close parent/child relationships.