Divorce is a very difficult and stressful process. When parents get divorced, the casualty list includes the kids. They might have many reactions to the divorce, such as mood swings, defensiveness about being touched, general problems with schoolwork, lack of interest, and laziness.
Fortunately, such behaviors are often part of the normal grieving process and they can be alleviated by following the ten guidelines listed below for divorced or divorcing parents. Remember, there is no way to make it good for kids—in their eyes, divorce is a disaster. These guidelines are offered in hopes of making a bad situation a little better.
1. Expect kids to handle the divorce as well as the adults handle it.
The tone set by the parents will go a long way in helping kids handle it. If the divorce is bitter, lacks effective communication, and is filled with anger, the kids will most likely behave in the same way. Model the behavior you want to see from your kids.
2. Let the kids know that the divorce is not their fault.
Some kids feel that they are at fault when their parents divorce. Some kids think, “If I had been a better kid, my parents would still be together.” Let your kids know that the divorce is not their fault and that both of you still love them.
3. Be honest about feelings and observations.
Speaking negatively about the ex-spouse backfires. Parents need to tell their kids, without giving details, how they feel about their ex-spouse and why. Allowing for the other parent’s point of view in the discussion is of equal importance. Above all else, your kids should know both parents still love them.
4. Understand your kids’ misbehavior without excusing it.
Kids should be encouraged to express how they feel. However, parents should continue to give consequences for misbehavior and disrespect. Remember that the Love and Logic approach is always to deliver empathy before consequences.
5. Give children a support group.
Much like adults, kids need to have supportive people around them. Having someone outside of the family for your kids to talk to about the divorce is a good idea. Some parents have school counselors, teachers, peer groups, or friends of the family be the supportive people for their kids.
6. Post-divorce counseling for parents and children may help.
Counseling is never a bad idea. When communication is sparse or poor, and distrust is high between the parents, counseling for the parents and kids can go a long way in making improvements.
7. Remain available without prying.
We’ve all given answers people want to hear at times. Kids are no different. Being available for your kids when they need to talk is a great way to keep communication open and honest. Parents must have the attitude of “Tell me your thoughts. I can handle them,” when communicating with their children.
8. Handle issues directly with the ex-spouse.
Never give kids messages to pass along to the ex-spouse. If there is something you need to communicate to your ex-spouse, you should contact your ex-spouse directly.
9. Kids need moms and dads.
Should you remarry, encourage your kids to call their stepparent “Mom” or “Dad.” Kids won’t forget who their real parent is.
10. The birth parent must back the stepparent in discipline completely.
If you remarry, you must let your kids know that your new spouse is a lifetime partner and that they should treat their stepparent with respect.
Divorce can certainly take a toll on everyone involved. To hear more suggestions for helping your kids through divorce, listen to our audio, Love and Logic: Keys to Helping Kids Cope with Divorce.
Thanks for reading!