If you are newly divorced or are in the divorce process and children are involved, you have good reason to be concerned about them and the effects divorce may have. One of the most common questions that we receive as family law practitioners is: “What is going to happen to my children?”
The first thing to expect is a wide array of emotions. Depending on the individual child, those emotions could range from anger to sadness, or in some situations, a sense that he or is she is to blame. It is important to make it very clear that the divorce has nothing to do with anything that your child has done and that both parents love him/her very much. Patience is key for you as you navigate your way through helping your child through this family transition.
The following are a few tips to keep in mind as you all adjust to new life after the divorce:
- Encourage your child to express his/her feelings and emotions. Ask your child what he or she is feeling and encourage conversation. You should reiterate to your child that he or she child may speak freely about their feelings with you. Engaging in activities/common interests together with your child (i.e. sports, painting, etc.) may help maintain a connection that encourages communication and expression.
- Your child may surprise you with what he or she has to say and it’s crucial to pay attention and work things out together.
- Regardless of how acrimonious the divorce may have been, it is imperative that you and your former spouse remain calm and respectful toward one another when your child is present.
- Maintain routine. Children function best with a daily or weekly routine that brings on a sense of familiarity and comfort.
- Be aware that it is normal for children to be angry, have mild anxiety or depression after a divorce. You may want to consult your child’s pediatrician and seek a referral for a therapist for your child, and/or reach out to your child’s school adjustment counselor.
- There are, however, other behaviors to be aware of that may require more attention and additional support. According to Help Guide.org, a non-profit guide to mental health and well-being, red flags include: sleep problems, poor concentration, trouble at school, drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawal from loved ones, and refusal to continue with activities previously important.
Through trial and error, you and your child will find what works best for your every day lives post-divorce. If you find that the coping process is more difficult than expected (for you or your child), seeking guidance from a therapist is a prudent decision from which many parents and children in transition benefit.