Divorces are definitely not an easy event to live by, not for you, not for the partner, and definitely not for the child involved. However, if you deal with it in a mature and smart way, your child will not grow up to be someone from a “broken home”. It is not necessary that the divorce will create a deep impact impossible to be mended. Many kids with divorced parents grow up to become normal and tolerant adults. So how to do this in a mature way? Read on.
How To Break The News Of Divorce To Your Child?
How you break the news should really depend on your child’s age and personality. But try to include the following things in the conversation:
- “This is not your fault in anyway”
- “Mom and dad still love you the same way as before”
- “Although mom and dad are not going to be living together, your bond with us will never change”
- “We will never leave you or stop loving you”
- “We will always take care of you”
The idea is to tell them in simple terms that you are going to be separated from the spouse (“mom and dad have to live apart. Sometimes parents need to do that when they cannot agree with each other.” Once you covey this, immediately assure the child that you will never stop loving him or divorce him. Once he is assured he will be taken care of, tell him that this was not his fault. Sooner, or later, they will end up blaming themselves for the divorce. So this is a very important message to be conveyed. Finally, prepare them for what lies ahead – how their lives would be in the near future.
Of course, the message and the tone will be different for different ages. An older kid will know what a divorce is. A younger kid might be satisfied with a “we are going to live in different houses”.
How To Handle Your Kid’s Reaction To Your Divorce?
Once you convey the message, give them time to process it. Some kids might immediately show signs of anger, fear or sorrow. If so, tell your child it is okay to feel let down and upset. Reassure your love for him.
Some kids do not react right away. That is alright too. Do not demand a reaction from him. Tell them whenever they are ready, or have questions, both of you will be there for him.
Most importantly, be prepared to answer all the questions he might have on how his daily routine will change. If you do not know the answer, say “mom and dad need to figure that one out”. Do not figure it out in front of your child, because we all know how that is going to end. Honesty always work.
How To Decide On The Living Condition?
There are various living options after a divorce. One of the parent might have sole custody or you might have joint custody. In case of a joint custody, you need to decide how you split the time of your child between both parents. Most parents decide to split the time literally (e.g. six months with one parent and six months with the other) especially if they stay in the same city. It works well on some kids, while others struggle because there is no single consistent place called “home”. What is important is that you chose an arrangement that is in line with what your child wants. This does not, however, mean that you ask your child (especially smaller ones) “who do you want to spend your birthday with?” or “who do you want to be with during your Christmas holidays?” As a parent, you should resolve the conflict. Do not put your child in a catch 22 situation when they are forced to choose one parent over the other. That said, once they are a teenager, they might want to have a say in their schedule as they have their own priorities. Again, you know your child. Do what is best for him.
Parenting Tips To Remember If You Are Going Through A Divorce
- Make sure you do not have heated debates and fights in front of the child
- Keep the child away from legal discussions and courts as much as possible
- Ensure the involvement of both parents in the child’s lives. Always remember, both father and mother has roles to play
- Do not build an air of negativity in the house. If there are differences, if you are depressed, find another place to vent all that out – close friends, counselors. Kids are too small to understand and handle your complicated emotions
- Remember that the more you disrupt your child’s routine, the more will he be impacted. Make sure you do not change the child’s routine too much
- Try to avoid abrupt separation from one of the parent. Kids need time to cope. You owe them that
- Address your child’s concerns. Arrange face-to-face, one-on-one meetings with each parent so that both of you can answer any question they will have
- Consistency is key. You might have differences in other aspects, but remember that both of you want the best for your child. Convey consistent messages, ensure there are no contradictions in what mom says and what dad says
- Watch out for behavioral changes and address them. These changes could be anything depending on the age of the kid. Bed wetting, sadness, loss of appetite, depression, rebellious acts, loss of sleep, bunking classes and even drug use are some of the ways the child might try to cope
- Remain patient. With yourself, with your spouse and with the child. Especially with the child
Read more on preparing your child for separation here.