Helping Your Child Cope with Divorce

Infants and Divorce

  • Love, love, love your infant. Even though a divorce is devastating for you, don’t make it devastating for your child by forgetting to show your love.
  • Keep everyday routines as consistent and predictable as possible. Even though an infant won’t understand what you’re going through, she does notice if her life becomes chaotic.
  • Find other trusted adults who can help care for your child. Sometimes a divorce can be so upsetting that you need time just to release your emotions. It will be better for everyone if you can do this away from your infant.

Toddlers and Divorce

  • Remind your toddler how much you love him. Encourage your ex (or soon-to-be-ex) to do the same.
  • Play with your child. Have fun. Even if you don’t feel like having fun or playing, it’s very important for you to have positive experiences together.
  • Reassure your child. If she is confused as to why Mom and Dad are now living in different places, say that Mom and Dad are having trouble. Then focus on your child. Explain how much you care about her.

Preschoolers and Divorce

  • Be open to your child’s questions. You don’t need to get into a lot of detail, but it’s important to be honest as simply as you can.
  • Remind your child how much you care for him.
  • Explain that the divorce is not your child’s fault.
  • Ask your child what she would enjoy doing. Young children feel more in control if they have a say in what they can do.

Elementary-Age Children and Divorce

  • Never lie to your child—even if it’s tempting. If your ex-husband had an open affair, and your child asks if the divorce was because your ex had a girlfriend, say yes. You don’t need to say anything more.
  • Periodically ask your child how he feels about the divorce. Be open to his feelings and thoughts. Don’t be surprised if he has strong emotional reactions—or little reaction at all. Every child reacts differently.
  • Maintain your daily routines. Children cope better when their daily routines don’t change. Even if you have to move, children will do better if they know that mealtimes, bath times, bedtimes, and other routines stay the same.

Young Teenagers and Divorce

  • Allow your young teenager to adjust to divorce at her own rate. Some teens adjust more slowly than others. There is no right or wrong way (nor a right timing) for a young teenager to cope with a divorce.
  • Let your young teenager react in his own way. Some teens draw closer to their parents during divorce, while others pull away. Some have a lot of questions and want to talk about it. Others don’t want to talk about it at all. Be sensitive to your teen’s reactions.
  • Don’t put your child in the middle of your conflicts with your ex. Work hard to be mature about the divorce (even if you’re really upset). Remember that your teenager is always watching how you handle the difficulties in your life.

Older Teenagers and Divorce

  • Be open and honest with your older teenager about your divorce. Don’t give her too much information, but answer any question that she has.
  • Don’t be surprised if your teenager either spends more time at home or more time away from home. Some older teenagers want to stay close to their parent. Others feel more comfortable away from home with their friends.
  • Periodically ask your teenager how he feels about the divorce. Remember that he is learning to adjust—just like you are. It’s a long, complicated process.
 

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