Successful Co-Parenting A Child's View

Parenting Through a Divorce

Divorce is never easy for parents — or for the children involved. Discover the dos and don'ts of talking to your kids about divorce.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

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About half of all marriages end in divorce, and if those marriages have children, the divorce will have a significant impact on them as well, says Wendy L. Sheppard, MSW, a parenting expert in Philadelphia. Whether the divorcing parents are feeling relieved or devastated by their decision, their children’s feelings of security will be threatened.

During or shortly after the divorce, children may have insomnia and anxiety, says Sheppard. They may become very afraid or depressed. Some may even become promiscuous and abuse drugs and alcohol.

Divorced parents should watch for signs of change. Young children, for example, may become hostile, won’t want to cooperate, or won’t want to be around you. Older children may experience behavioral and self-esteem issues and their grades may slip. How you tell your children about an impending divorce may help limit these problems.

Children and Divorce: Breaking the News to Children

Sheppard suggests these “dos” when talking to children about divorce:

  • Tell your children about the divorce together.Remember that divorced parents will still both be parenting after the divorce. “Tell them you love them and always will, no matter what. Reinforce numerous times that there is nothing your child did or did not do to cause the divorce," says Sheppard.
  • Explain that this issue is between you and your spouse."Divorce is an adult decision — children are not responsible," Sheppard says. Be prepared to repeatedly tell your children that it's not their fault. Also be sure to encourage good communication between your children and your ex, and be supportive when your children want to call their other parent even when they’re with you.
  • Be clear about the future.Discuss the new living arrangements and comfort your children by telling them you know this will be hard and that you will be there for them. "Let your children know you will both do everything possible to make this the most comfortable experience you can for them," says Sheppard.

Sheppard suggests these "don'ts" when talking to children about divorce:

  • Don't ever insult your ex in front of your children.“When you bad-mouth the other parent, you are bad-mouthing one half of your child," says Sheppard. "That is the way your child sees it."
  • Don't lean on your children."Your child is not a support person for you while you are going through a divorce," says Sheppard. "Your child is a child and needs to remain a child." Look to your adult friends for support during this tough time.
  • Don't use your child as a messenger between you and your ex.Don't pass money, schedules, or any other information through your child. If you want to communicate with your ex, do it directly. "Children are caught in the middle. They experience grave loyalty conflicts in the midst of a divorce. Putting them in the middle by having to relay information means that, most likely, they are going to upset one parent," says Sheppard.

Children and Divorce: A Divorced Parent's Perspective

It's natural for parents to be afraid of their children's reaction when they tell them that they are getting divorced.

For Sue Waters, 63, a licensed professional counselor in Denver, the biggest fear was that the decision was going to irreparably harm her children. She questioned her decision and struggled with what she was putting her family through, but ultimately knew it was the right choice. However, there were many parenting challenges afterward.

Her children, who were 7 and 10 at the time of her divorce, hated going back and forth between two households. No matter what accommodations she made, transitioning back and forth was difficult. "We tried different schedules, and they always claimed they hated them," says Waters. "But they wouldn't have liked any schedule."

On Sundays — transition day — Waters noticed that her daughter would pick fights with her until it was time to go to her father's house. "That made it easier for her to leave," Waters says. "I didn't realize that at the time."

It was even tougher after Waters and her ex each remarried. Waters' new marriage added three more children to their lives. It changed the birth order of her children in the family, not to mention the new family dynamic with additional children and a new stepfather. When their father remarried, he had a child with his new wife, giving them a new half-brother.

"It has been incredibly difficult," says Waters of their adjustment to new step-siblings. "Our five kids have varying relationships and, over the years, the alliances have changed." Even today, her children, now 34 and 37, struggle with their place in the family and with their parents. They still must split their time between their parents when they return home to visit over the holidays.

A divorce is a loss for the children as well as the divorcing spouses. “It’s the loss of the family as they knew it and the hope that they would have an intact family,” explains Waters. "And [that loss is] always there on some level." How you and your ex approach parenting can help your children through this difficult period in all your lives.

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Date: 13.12.2018, 17:06 / Views: 53264