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What Children Need From You During Your Divorce

Change is difficult for kids to accept, especially when it brings up feelings of sadness, anger and stress. Help your divorce be less painful for your children. Although it’s distressing for you, don’t forget your child’s feelings in the equation.

Kids need stability to flourish in every aspect of their lives. Provide them with a detailed routine they can always rely on and give them the structure they need to reassure them you are there to listen.

There are great resources depending on your child’s specific needs. For example, purchase a large weekly calendar and put it on your child’s wall. Write the weekly schedule on their board every Sunday night, showing which times they are with mom or with dad and times of activities, dinners, etc. It will help establish a routine and make them reassured by looking at this visual daily.

There are also plenty of books on divorce made for your child. Make this a nightly reading routine. It shows them they aren’t alone in this situation.

Take care of yourself and as hard as it is, try and move forward with your ex peacefully; at least in front of the kids. It’s not their problem so don’t make them a victim. By maintaining a “working relationship” with your ex, you can both realize that getting through this divorce without much conflict will eventually lead to a better way of living. Your kids should never have to watch you both in conflict.

Important Notes:

  • Be Honest & Keep It Real – Tell your kids the truth but don’t confuse them; be age-aware, younger kids need simple explanations and older kids may need more info.
  • Don’t avoid the situation – Kids can hear all sorts of things at school, so it’s your responsibility to make sure they know what’s going on.
  • Tell them, “I Love You” – Let them know you care even if you are stressed and busy.
  • Provide Stability – Give them the security they need, be consistent!
  • Change of Address – Let them know if things will be changing (moving, school, etc.) Before they ask, go over details of what to expect BUT try not to overwhelm them.

There are kid-friendly resources for them to view on safe, kid-friendly Web sites. They use simple terms and give answers to questions. Two of our favorites are KidsHealth and DivorceCare for Kids:

Most importantly, listen to your kids. Help them express their feelings and use proper words for the way they’re feeling. Let them be honest with you and feel comfortable that you are acknowledging their feelings openly.

Remember, young children don’t really understand what’s going on, they just care about how it effects them and their lives. Reassure your child that they are loved dearly and will always be loved. “Mummy and Daddy will always love you and that will never change.”

YOU … Support yourself in your own recovery. Exercise and keep up with a healthy diet, visit with friends – you’ll most definitely need this support, write in a journal or blog, laugh, see a therapist and NEVER vent to your child.

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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