By Laura Walls

Sadly, marriages end and what follows can be extremely trying. Parents wonder about how the

divorce will influence their children. While children are very resilient, a divorce is a major

change and children will feel the effects of that. Parents have a huge amount of power over how

the divorce is handled and ultimately how the children are influenced by it. Thankfully, there are

ways parents can make the divorce more manageable and easier on children.

 

1. Don’t speak badly about the other parent. This sounds easy; just don’t call the other parent

names, but it is much more than that. Parents are always shocked by what their children seem to

know. Often, parents feel they are talking in code or being indirect or that there is no way a child

can hear them speaking badly of the other parent. But you would be surprised by how intuitive

even the youngest of children can be and how easily they can pick up on subtle undertones.

 

2. Talk with the child/children. It can be very tempting to avoid a difficult topic, thinking that not

mentioning it will help the children move on. However, not talking about it often results in

children coming up with all kinds of negative thoughts surrounding the divorce, perhaps aimed at

themselves. For example, thinking the divorce was their fault and/or thinking that their lives will

be forever miserable. Both parents should sit down together and calmly explain the change as

honestly as possible without assigning blame. Make sure that the children understand that it is

not their fault by saying so. Answer any questions they may have calmly and reassure them they

are loved by both parents. Children are very quick to see themselves as responsible for the

negative events in their lives and need to hear that it is not a result of anything they did. Also,

children need routine and when discussing changes, parents should offer a lot of information

about the new schedule and try to keep things as similar to the past schedule as possible.

 

3. Reduce, then eliminate fighting in front of the children. Resolve to not fight in front of the

children. Fighting in front of the children can cause a great deal of stress on them and they may

blame themselves for the fighting.

 

4. Don’t put them in the middle, get competitive, or jealous, Children should never feel like they

are the go between for their parents. Children should never be subjected to having to deliver

messages or pick sides between parents. Also, try to not feel jealous of the other parent. I know it

is very hard to hear a child discuss positively something they did with the other parent when

divorce first occurs and feelings of anger, resentment and sadness are very potent. However, do

not take a child having fun with the other parent as a reflection on you.

 

5. Accept their feelings, including anger and disappointment. Children will struggle to see the

positive benefits of divorce though they may seem obvious to parents. Accept that this situation

is a big deal and is not a happy one for them. With time and consistency, children do move past

these feelings but need to experience them and understand that their parents are okay with these

feelings.