Helping Kids Through Divorce
As a country we are going through so many changes right now and we’re just trying to keep up with them all! Because of COVID-19 and the combination of stress, unemployment and financial strain (just to name a few), divorce rates in the U.S. have spiked. For parents, it’s important that we’re keeping our kids in the loop and helping them process these changes. Even without the added pressure of the ongoing pandemic, every divorce will affect children in some way, depending on their age, personality, and the circumstances of the separation. Here are some important things any parent can do to help their kiddos during this difficult transition:
- Help them put their feelings into words: kids may act out when they’re feeling angry, frustrated, or sad; they might not always be able to name these feelings. It’s important that you be understanding of their behavior and be a good listener.
- Legitimize their feelings: it’s important to validate their feelings, even if the feelings make you uncomfortable (i.e. “I don’t want to live with you, I want to live with them!). Encourage them to get it all out before you try to diffuse the situation and make it better.
- Offer support: asking questions such as, “What do you think will help you feel better?”, lets the kids know that you’re willing to help them during this tough time, and offers them a sense of control when they may be feeling like everything is out of control. Some ideas you could suggest could be taking a walk, watching a movie together, or making their favorite dinner (or dessert!)
- Keep the details in check: kids might not be able to handle the true reasons why you are separating (i.e. infidelity). It’s important to ensure privacy when discussing the details and to keep interactions with your ex as civil as possible.
Many studies show that children who grow up in dysfunctional households have greater challenges with their own romantic relationships later. Remember, your children won’t be ruined because of this separation. If handled correctly, kids can come out of it better able to cope with stress and become more flexible and tolerant young adults. Growing up I witnessed two very different divorces in my family, and what helped the most was my mother’s willingness to talk to me openly and honestly about what was happening. You may be asking yourself, “Was I just being selfish?” or “Should I settle for their sake?”, but what’s important is that you’re doing what is best for both you and your children, however that may look.
By: Cody Flynn, BS