Every year, thousands of children live with the new stress of divorce. Well-meaning friends and family members tell divorcing parents, “Kids are resilient. They’ll bounce back.” While children can learn to adapt in tough situations, they need help healing from the pain of divorce.
How kids react to divorce depends on factors such as age, personality, the circumstances of the separation and the divorce process itself. Every divorce affects the children involved, and their first reaction is usually shock, worry, sadness or anger. However, many of these children grow up more flexible, tolerant and able to cope with the stresses of life.
What can parents do to ensure this type of transition? What can they do to keep their family strong after divorce? Here are some practical tips for healing the emotional wounds, providing comfort and keeping the family functional.
Divorce compromises a child’s sense of safety and security. Learning about their parents’ divorce can cause different reactions, from fear and worry to anger and frustration. Parents can reassure their kids that these feelings are okay and understandable.
Parents should be prepared to answer questions like, “Who will I live with?” and “Where will I go to school?” Honesty is not always easy, especially no one has all the answers, but it is always the right thing to do.
Divorce causes children and adults to grieve the loss of their family. Kids miss the presence of both parents. This is why they continue to hope for their parents’ reconciliation, even when they understand the finality of divorce.
Parents can help kids cope with divorce by encouraging honesty, helping them voice their feelings, legitimizing those feelings and offering support. Families who learn to communicate with each other can come out of divorce emotionally and relationally stronger.
Custody, property and financial issues amplify the stress of divorce. This can bring out the worst in everyone. Families can handle stress better when they are physically and emotionally fit. Parents who keep themselves healthy can care for their children better, and healthy kids cope with their own issues better.
Consistency is also important after divorce. Routines give children and adults a sense of comfort and familiarity that can help them cope with this major life change. Kids also need regular one-on-one time with each of their parents, despite the inconvenience it may cause ex-partners.
Divorce causes a shock to the systems of parents and their children. It causes painful emotional wounds that everyone involved needs to heal. Support can come from religious leaders, family doctors and family law attorneys. Sometimes, healing comes from counseling or support groups. The important thing is that families get help when they need it.