Helping Children Through Divorce

Look at divorce through a child’s eyes.

To you, divorce probably means a second chance at happiness. To children, it represents the loss of their family. Genevieve Clapp, Ph.D., said in her book Divorce & New Beginnings, “Children assume that their family is a given and that their parents are permanent; after all, their family and parents are what provide for their needs. In their eyes, they are intricately woven with survival.”

Some children feel rejected by the parent who leaves. They have fears of being abandoned by the other parent as well. They will feel an intense longing for the absent parent and may not have control over their tears. Anger is also a common reaction. Some children will try to hide their anger, and others may have outbursts and tantrums.

Should we stay together “for the children”?

Children from relatively conflict-free single-parent families are usually better adjusted than children from conflict-ridden intact families. Ongoing parental conflict is more damaging to children the longer it continues.  Divorce can result in giving children a better environment than a troubled, intact-family situation. The important thing is that children should not have to continually be exposed to the conflict. The conflict must end with the divorce. 

Remember that your children love both of you.

It doesn't matter how you feel about your ex-spouse. Your children do not have to feel the same way you do. Allow them to continue loving their other parent. They have a perfect right to their feelings and should not be made to feel guilty.

Allow your ex-spouse frequent, regular visitation rights.

Working out visitation can be tricky. If you try to prevent your ex from seeing the children, your children may feel confused and resentful. 

Do not call your home a "broken" home.

The word suggests your home is wrong or bad in some way. Your children do not have a broken home; they have two homes. Your children should not think of their family life as "broken," because they are able to have an ongoing relationship with both parents even though you do not live together anymore. 

Recognize your children's basic need for security.

The continued love and support of both parents will help your children handle the stress of your divorce and potential remarriage. They need your love, attention, interest, and reassurance that they will always be an essential part of your life. They will always be your children, and you will always love them. When they share their feelings, accept them. It may be hard for you to learn how angry they are about the divorce. You may not want to know how much they miss seeing their other parent every day. If you show empathy and accept their feelings, the love between you and your children will continue to grow.