HELPING YOUR CHILDREN COPE WITH DIVORCE
is never easy on children or their parents. Although there
are some differences in research on the permanent impact
of divorce on children, all would agree that growing up
in a two-parent, positive and happy family increases the
likelihood that children will develop into healthy adults.
A bad marriage is always stressful for BOTH adults and
children, and research can't prove with certainty whether
a good divorce is better or worse than a bad marriage.
Divorcing parents usually wish to know how to support
their children through a divorce and help them adjust
as well as possible afterwards. If you're considering
a divorce or have already divorced, here are some guidelines
that may help you and your children during this difficult
If there's even a small chance that your marriage
may improve with counseling, make the attempt. All
marriages go through crises, and many marriages improve
with outside help.
Even if you conclude that it’s impossible to
save your marriage, seek counseling for a smoother
divorce. Definitely provide your children with at
least some brief counseling. They'll want a safe person
to talk to, and talking to either of their parents
during this stressful time may cause them to feel
"caught in the middle."
Both parents should assure the children of their love
and explain that the divorce was not caused by any
of the children. Parents should also assure the children
that they can continue to love both parents and don't
have to take sides.
Even if you believe the divorce was the fault of the
other parent, don't blame the divorce on that parent
when speaking to your children. Know that this is
difficult to do when you feel angry or rejected.
Don't confide in your children about intimate details
of the divorce. Your oldest children, particularly,
will often wish to take the role of confidant. Your
children want the status of adults, but in the long
run, treating them like an adult too soon will cause
them to feel insecure. They often turn on the confiding
parent and become more rebellious than typical during
Don't encourage your children to say negative things
to you about their other parent. They may be tempted
to do that in hopes of getting in your good graces.
Don't say negative things to your children about their
positive achieving aspects of the other parent so
that he or she can be a constructive role model. Children
will see that person as a role model even if you describe
the parent negatively. The more emphasis you put on
the negative characteristics of the other parent,
the more likely it is that your children will feel
helpless to do anything about their own similar negative
characteristics. If it's difficult to find positive
characteristics about the other parent, don't say
anything at all.
who live with and visit parents in separate homes
should have two places where they can learn about
work and play. Avoid the image of one work parent
and one play parent. Try to make their two home lives
as consistent as possible.
you feel angry at your children's behavior, don't
remind them that they're like the other parent. That
will not help the children with any problem but will
probably cause the children to believe they have no
other choice but to be like that parent.
get your children involved in your financial crises.
That will either cause them to feel very anxious,
blame the other parent, or see the other parent as
the more powerful parent.
feel guilty about the divorce. No one is perfect.
Guilt has never helped improve parenting skills. Time
will heal the feelings of hurt and will put problems
into perspective for your children if you and their
other parent adjust to living in a reasonable relationship.
to keep your life going forward. When you adjust well
after a divorce, your children will look to you as
a role model and will develop confidence in their
ability to succeed in life.
the other parent is abusive or reluctant to keep a
relationship going with the children, don't force
or encourage that negative relationship. It will only
result in your children being abused or feeling rejected
by the other parent. It’s better to move forward
and help the children develop positive relationships
with other important adults in their lives, such as
grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends
by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or
parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written
permission of the author.