Nobody ever plans it to work out that way, and it’s the last thing you want for your children. But sometimes it happens: parentsdecide to separate or get a divorce. There are always plenty of angry, hurt, and confused feelings to go around. For many parents, the biggest worry is how it will affect their kids.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is now a common scenario for children, so it’s likely your child will know some other children who have similar experiences, and that can help. Divorced parents are simply one of many different kinds of families out there today, and you can help your child to understand that while his family is changing, he still has many people who love and are committed to him. It’s important that children understand that the changes are not their fault, and that even though his parents can no longer remain together, they each still love him very much.
Children will absolutely fare best when the adults around them can remain civil, at least in front of the kids. Most importantly, each parent needs to understand, respect, and support the right and need of the child to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with the other parent. Determining custody arrangements can be complicated, to say the least, but allowing the child to have time and space to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents should always be the goal. When she is at one parent’s house, a child should be allowed and encouraged to have pictures of the other parent in her room, and to communicate with the other parent (by phone, texting, video chats,etc). Cordial transitions between households absolutely help children not to feel as torn by the separation. Parents can help by being flexible with schedule changes that allow children to participate in special events, especially when those events help to maintain connections with extended family members.
It’s normal for children to be sad and angry after adivorce or separation. Letting a child’s teachers, coaches, and other adult mentors know what’s happening can help those adults to also be a support to a child. Children who experience prolonged sadness or severe anger may also be helped by seeing a therapist, who can help them to process the loss in a healthier way. Over time, and especially when both parents can work together to focus on what’s best for each child, many children find that they are happier, since the discord that usually precedes adivorce or separation was stressful in its own way.
If your family finds itself in this situation, you can also always talk with us here at Kids Plus. Our aim is always to help you help your children to be happy, healthy, and thriving in every way, and in every kind of family.
Dr. Sarah Springer serves as the Medical Director of Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania.