No one wants to go through a divorce, especially when there are children involved.
Unfortunately, divorce is a reality for many couples. If you are going through a divorce and you have children, you have a responsibility as a parent to do what you can to protect your child.
It’s important to realize that while both you and your child are experiencing the stress of divorce, you are experiencing it differently.
Here are a few guidelines to help you help your child through this difficult time:
- Put on your oxygen mask first! In order to be able to be there for your child, you are going to have to take care of yourself first. You need to have a support system in place that you can use for venting, processing, and grieving the loss of your marriage. Having your own support system allows you the ability to show up fully as a parent.
- Empathize with your child’s feelings, but recognize that they are not your feelings. Be intentional about not blaming the other parent for the divorce.
- Reassure your child. Let them know that even though things are different, they still have two parents who love them.
- Develop structure and routine around hand-offs. Transitioning from one parent to another is often difficult for children. Structuring hand-offs by meeting at the same time and place will provide children with a consistency they can learn to depend on.
- Keep hand-offs drama-free. Because hand-offs naturally center around the child, children may become burdened by the responsibility of a parent’s grief or anger that may be displayed in the moment. Children pick up on the cues of adults. If they see that you are okay, they will be okay.
- Be the best co-parent you can be. Whenever possible, communicate directly with the other parent. Avoid using the child to relay financial obligations or information.
Say something good about the other parent. This simple act can open the door to letting the child know that it is okay for them to also say good things about their parent.
Know that there is a broad range of support resources available for both you and your children. Divorce is difficult. I’ve been there. Personally, I would advise anyone going through it to not go it alone.
Written By: Jackie Dunagan, LAMFT