Of course divorce is hard on the couple, even if it is the low-conflict kind. The divorce process is complex. Emotions run high. But no matter how you get caught up in the back-and-forth or how you feel, remember the most important and most vulnerable people that can easily fall by the wayside or even get caught in the middle are the children. It’s important to talk to them, spend time with them and let them know this isn’t their fault, and that even though things are changing they are still very much loved. Be cognizant of how the divorce is affecting your child and don’t be afraid to bring it to your ex’s attention. Even if you are splitting you will be co-parenting from now on. It’s important to develop strategies on how that is going to work for their sake. But what’s more important is supporting the children through this difficult process, answering their questions and being there for them. Here is what the kids need to hear during a divorce. No matter what age your children are, whether they are young or full grown adults let them know that the divorce isn’t their fault. How a child processes a divorce is different for each person. Lots of them use introspection. Often an insignificant incident may be perceived as the cause. The children need to know flat out that it isn’t their fault and what the reasons are as well as you can elaborate and if their age allows.
Let them know that no matter what they are feeling, it isn’t wrong. Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. How we act on, deal with or cope with our feelings is what makes them good or bad. The children may feel sullen, argumentative, upset, angry or confused, or many of these emotions or different ones at different times, and that’s okay. But you have to find positive outlets for them to express these emotions. Talking to you or to a trusted confidant, playing sports, exercising, taking part in relaxation techniques, therapy, yoga or meditation can all be positive, healthy methods of dealing with these emotions. If the child’s emotions are out of hand seek out a counselor. Make sure it is someone who has experience in this regard and someone the child can connect with. Make sure that you and your ex resoundingly send the message over and over again that both of their parents love them and that nothing will change that. Remind them that each parent shows their love in the best way they know how. Each person loves differently and to compare one parent’s style to another is foolhardy and just doesn’t work. Let them know that life continues despite this divorce. They still have friends, responsibilities, hobbies and other business to attend to. This divorce is not who they are, it’s just an aspect of their life. They aren’t responsible for their parent’s marriage. In fact, it really has nothing to do with them, it’s between the two of you. Marriage can be great but it has to be with the right person. For more on this topic, pick up a copy of Talking to Your Children about Separation and Divorce: A Handbook for Parents by Risa J. Garon and the Children of Separation and Divorce Center Inc.