& Home: Coping with Divorce
nothing easy about divorce. When a marriage or long term partnership
ends, it can be an incredibly painful and challenging time for parents
are things you can do to promote your family's healing and help
your children cope with the changes that lie ahead.
empathy, attention and reassurance. Spend time with your children
and show them that, although your family is experiencing changes,
you are still a family. Let them know you understand how difficult
it can be to handle these changes and you will do everything you
can to help them through this time. Reassure your children that
you will always love them and be available for them.
Your children may ask many questions about the divorce. Why did
it happen? Will you get married again? Listen to their questions.
They may not be seeking long explanations about the divorce, but
may simply be seeking reassurance that you will be available for
them and they will be loved and cared for.
their questions honestly - and at a level that is consistent with
their age. For example, a 5-year-old's questions will typically
require a less detailed response than those of a 12-year-old will.
children do not yet understand the complexities of adult relationships
and may feel somehow responsible for your divorce. Ensure that they
understand kids cannot cause divorce or other "grown up"
will be times when you will not be able to answer all their questions.
Or you may choose not to. That's okay. Tell your children that you
will do your best to answer their questions.
your children know they can always come to you with their feelings
and concerns. But don't pressure them to talk. Reassure them that
it's okay to feel sad, worried or mad. Help them find positive ways
to express their feelings. Examples might include: talking with
others, keeping a journal, drawing a picture, playing, or participating
in physical activity. These will vary according to your children's
ages and interests.
routines. Children typically do best when they have consistency
and predictability in their lives. When you can, try to keep meals,
discipline, routines and schedules as consistent as possible in
badmouth your ex. While you may be experiencing the end of your
marriage, your former spouse will always be your children's father
or mother - and your parenting partner. Choose your words carefully
when talking about him or her in front of the children.
conflicts. Divorce can be a time of intense conflict and disagreements.
Yet you're expected to make joint decisions about serious issues
as custody, visitation and finances. One way to minimize conflicts
and ease your family's adjustment during this time is to seek the
services of a family mediator. Although a mediator is not a substitute
for independent legal advice, he or she can help parents make family
decisions with an emphasis on cooperation and their family's best
are some circumstances when mediation would not be appropriate for
families. Contact your local court's administrator for additional
information and referrals.
support for your children. You may notice changes in your children's
behavior, such as a temporary decline in schoolwork. Or you may
observe eating or sleeping difficulties, trouble concentrating,
stomachaches or headaches. Younger children may become "clingy"
or have more tantrums. Some changes in behavior are to be expected.
However, if the changes are severe, don't improve over time, or
you have other concerns, seek professional guidance.
and support groups for children are available through community
mental health centers and the public school system. Or your pediatrician
can provide appropriate referrals. These services can help your
children adjust, feel supported, and develop helpful coping strategies.
with teachers and caregivers. Let your children's teachers and
other caregivers know about the family changes so they can share
feedback about your children's behavior and be sensitive to your
support for yourself. When you help yourself, you are helping
your family. Create a support system that works for you. Seek new
friendships with other single parents. Ask for help from trusted
friends and adult family members. Find counseling and support groups.
you seek support and coping strategies during this difficult time,
you will promote your own recovery and healing. In addition, as
your children watch you, they will learn important life lessons
about how to handle challenges and loss.
support, love, and a strong commitment to parenting, you and your
family can survive -even thrive- during this challenging time.
After Divorce, by Diana Shulman
Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way, by M. Gary
Making Divorce Easier on Your Child, by Nicholas Long and Rex L.
Divorce, by Laurene and Marc Brown
I Don't Want to Talk About It, by Jeanie Franz Ransom
Parents Are Divorced, Too: A Book for Kids by Kids, by Jan Blackstone-Ford,
Annie Ford, Stephen Ford, Melanie Ford
Glasser, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of
NewsForParents.org. She is the author of "Positive Parenting,"
a weekly feature of the Miami Herald.