Although divorce can be stressful for the entire family, children in particular may struggle with feelings of abandonment, stress, sadness and anger. By fostering a positive environment for your child, you can raise a healthy child of divorced parents.
Children often play the blame game when coping with their parents’ divorce. Your child may feel she is to blame, although she is not. Liana Lowenstein, a Toronto-based child psychotherapist, suggests giving your child a simple but honest explanation about the divorce. It’s important for the children to understand that marriage issues are about the parents, not the children. Lowenstein recommends providing this explanation when the entire family is together so that children can see their parents as a united front.
Your child will experience a variety of emotions during the separation and divorce. Be available to listen, and allow him to express his emotions. Reassure the child that feelings of sadness, anger and guilt are very real and normal reactions. Prompt open discussions with phrases such as “You can tell me anything and I won’t be mad at you” and “Tell me more about how you are feeling.”
Reaffirm Your Love
When parents divorce, children may think that because their parents stopped loving each other, they will stop loving their children. It’s important that you tell your child often that you love her. Reiterate that the love between a parent and child lasts forever, and that both parents will never stop loving her even if they are no longer married and living in the same household.
Structure and consistency are key when the household seems in disarray during a divorce. Lowenstein recommends setting up a regular visitation schedule so that children feel secure and reassured that they will see both parents on a regular basis. Because divorce is such a stressful time of change for the entire family, do your best to keep your child in the same activities, sports and school as before the divorce. It also helps to make sure that each home contains familiar items, such as toys, games, school supplies and photos of family members, to help your child feel secure in both environments. Be consistent with rules and routines in both households. Try to agree on bedtimes, discipline and privileges so that your child sees minimal differences between mom's house and dad’s house.
Stay in Contact
Even if one parent lives far away from the child, it’s important to communicate regularly with children during and after the divorce to maintain a healthy relationship. Set up regular times for phone calls, video chats or emails to talk about the child's day, activities, feelings and thoughts. Regular contact with both parents will reinforce your love and support during this difficult time for your child.