by Jann Glasser, Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Coach/Psychotherapist, Collaborative Coach
For children, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the idea of their parents splitting up.
As a parent, you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children. Helping your kids cope with divorce means providing stability at home and attending to your children’s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude. It won’t be easy, but these tips can help your children cope.
A Child’s Wish List During Their Parents’ Divorce
- I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please communicate with me. Make phone calls, send texts and ask me lots of questions, but respect my right not to answer all the time. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
- Please stop fighting and try hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on things that have to do with me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
- I love you both and want to enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and my separate time with each of you. If you act jealous or upset when I am with my other parent, I feel like I need to take sides and love one of you more than the other.
- Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth. I don’t want to be your messenger.
- When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
- Please remember I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mom and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems. Please choose not to be another one of my problems!
It’s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your kids the right kind of support through your divorce. It may feel like uncharted waters, but you can successfully navigate this uncertain time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
Your patience, reassurance, and a listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. By providing routines kids can rely on, it reminds them they can count on you for stability, structure, and care.
As you establish a working relationship with your co-parent, you help your kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict. During this transitional time, you can’t be without some feelings of uncertainty and stress yourself, but you can greatly reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority. Put them at the center of your interests – not in the middle of your battlefield.