After Divorce: Improving the Relationship Between You and Your Child

Using Guilt Constructively

If you are feeling guilty, try to think clearly about the nature of the guilt that is part of your relationship with your children. Do you feel guilty because you have made your children live in a single-parent household? Remind yourself that you are not a bad person and that you did not hurt your children purposefully. It is natural to feel guilty when we harm someone, even accidentally. Guilt can be a good thing in that it can help us become more caring. 

Unconditional Love

In the book Divorcing, Dr. Krantzler says, "To love your children unconditionally means you love them for who they are, not for what they do." He does not suggest that you should be overly indulgent or permissive. Many divorced parents give all authority to their children because they feel helpless and out of control. They will do anything for their children as a means of keeping their love.

"You communicate unconditional love to your children when you create reasonable rules for the management of your household and for their behavior and consistently discipline them in an appropriate way for infractions," says Dr. Krantzler. You show unconditional love when you pay attention to what they are feeling, allow open communication at all times, help them in their struggle for independence, and provide continuing guidance and comfort. 

If Your Children Reject You

Older children are likely to show their anger about divorce by turning against the parent they believe was responsible for it. According to Genevieve Clapp, Ph.D. in Divorce and New Beginnings, "Hearing your child say, ‘I hate you and never want to see you again,’ is a traumatic blow to a parent, but it sometimes happens." Dr. Clapp suggests that you hang in there and continue to show your children that you care about them. "If they won’t see you," says Dr. Clapp, "phone them and send notes and cards or small ‘I’m thinking about you’ gifts. Continue to let them know that they are important to you, that you will not give up on them, and that you would like to see them whenever they are ready."

Helping Children with Their Anger

Anger is a common emotion in children whose parents have divorced. According to Dr. Clapp, "the most intense anger is likely to be expressed by older children (age nine and over), and it is most often directed at one or both parents, usually whomever they blame for the divorce." Some children act out their anger by rebelling, throwing tantrums, lowering school performance, fighting, drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in sexual promiscuity. However, children often have less difficulty with angry feelings if their parents show them understanding.

How to Handle Behavior Problems

After a divorce, some children develop serious behavior problems. Dr. Clapp suggests that parents help them understand why they are behaving as they are, help them find ways to release their anger, and be supportive, loving, and reassuring.


Clapp, G., Ph.D. Divorce and New Beginnings

Krantzler, M., Ph.D. and M. Belli. Divorcing