How to Help Kids & Teens Be Emotionally Stable Through a Divorce

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Without adequate assistance, it is often difficult for kids and teens to remain emotionally stable while their parents are going through a divorce. Emotional issues, such as extreme sadness, anxiety, depression and anger can have lasting effects on the psychological development of children. As a parent, it is your responsibility to mitigate the negative effects your parental separation or divorce may be having on your child.

Talk and Explain

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Communication with your kid or teen can help to alleviate some of the emotional stress that occurs because of divorce. The age of your child will determine the content and form of these discussions. Suggestions for healthy communication include explaining the process of divorce, discussing the implications of parental separation, and responding to questions and concerns. An open line of communication provides an atmosphere that is less stressful for your child and can help reduce the impact of negative emotional responses.

Be Attentive

Keep an eye out for behaviors and emotional expressions that suggest your child is feeling particularly distressed or upset, but don't be fooled by a lack of affect. According to Joseph Nawinski, Ph.D., the supervising psychologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center, a teen that acts indifferent to divorce is often confused, angry or emotional. In these cases, being attentive to the behaviors and attitude of your kid or teen can provide some insight into how your child is handling the divorce.

Parental Availability

Make sure your child knows that you and your spouse are available during a divorce. Your child should feel comfortable asking questions, voicing concerns or just coming to you to talk about what is going on. Insecurity, worry and fear of change are common responses of children to divorce. Parental accessibility can lessen the impact of these emotions and help deter long-term emotional problems.

Avoid Conflict

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Excessive conflict is another factor that can contribute to your kid or teen feeling overly stressed during a divorce. As noted by JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, PhD, a child specialist, ongoing conflict erodes effective parenting, which in turn contributes to children’s emotional and behavioral problems. By avoiding unnecessary parental and parent-child conflict, you are providing an environment that does not add to the emotional strain that is typically characteristic of divorce.