Elizabeth Ozer, a pediatric psychologist from the University of California, San Francisco, stated, “The divorce of parents is a major life event, and it is something a child will be coping with well into adulthood. Having said that, kids can and do thrive after their parents’ divorce. As a parent, your role is to do all you can to help your child weather this transition.” Children will be feeling all types of emotions after their parents split, so it is extremely important to allow time for your child to ask questions, cry, and be cuddled. Children need love more than ever after a divorce. Here are some tips to help smooth the transition.
Keep routines the same.
Children fear change. Try to keep their schedule as normal as possible. Communicate with your partner about what day and night schedules should include. Their routines should look the same at both houses. Some main topics to be discussed are morning routines, meals, homework schedules, the amount of screen time, desserts, number of books read before bed, bath time, and bedtime. It is common for parents to feel some guilt over a divorce and want to make it up to their children through bribery. Resist the temptation to buy new toys, allow extra screen time, and/or give more sweets in order to attempt to ease the pain of the divorce. Your children will feel more secure if they have most things relatively ‘back to normal’ and consistent.
Do not snoop.
What did Daddy’s house look like? What did you have for dinner over there? What time did you go to bed? Although you may be asking all these questions, keep them to yourself! Trust that your partner will follow the routines you set together but understand that it is out of your control if he/she does not. Asking general questions about their day or weekend is fine, but making your child a spy is unproductive. It may also create added tension and stress for your child.
Love your child even harder.
Divorce is a complex task with many steps. It is easy to get caught up in all the logistics and forget about how it is affecting others. When your child is home with you, put down the phone and focus on him or her. Show your child you still love them and give them the attention they need.
Continue to talk.
You might need to repeat the divorce talk a couple times before your child fully understands. Allow your child to ask as many questions as they want and answer them as best as you can. Help your child accept their feelings by explaining that it is normal to feel sad, angry, hurt, and alone. Explain that your child is not alone and you feel sad too.
Every child handles a parent’s divorce differently. Some signs to watch for include regressing milestones, aggressiveness, anger, depression, and/or becoming reserved. Therapy is a great environment for children to discuss their feelings and learn coping strategies. Family therapy may also be helpful if routines are different in each household. Compromising on certain rules with a professional present will encourage more follow through by each parent.
Lumiere Children’s Therapy has a licensed clinical pediatric social worker that can help your family adjust to life after a divorce. Contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy to schedule an appointment today!
“How to Tell Your Child You’re Getting Divorced.” BabyCenter. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2016.
“Kids Coping with Divorce.” WebMD. ©2005-2016 WebMD, LLC, n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.