When you and your spouse decide to divorce, it’s common to experience a range of emotions and uncertainty.
And when you have children, it’s also common they will experience their own emotional whirlwinds.
As parents, we tend to worry about our kids. And when kids are going through such a difficult tumultuous life change as divorce, you might become that much more protective to ensure their emotional well-being.
You might, therefore, wonder what your children are thinking or what to say if they ask you certain questions about your divorce.
Or you might notice your child has more stomach aches or headaches than usual.
Or perhaps your son or daughter has become socially or emotionally withdrawn, moody or aggressive. You might also notice that your child’s performance at school and grades have declined.
Older children might tend to avoid being home, especially if both parents live together in the home.
As a family lawyer for over 20 years and a former teen of divorced parents, I know all too well the many ways divorce can affect children.
Here are four of the most common thoughts and fears that children have about divorce – even if they don’t say it directly.
1. “It’s my fault.”
One of the most common worries is that your son or daughter may be the cause of your divorce.
The first thing to do is to assure them the divorce is not their fault. That you both love them and always will.
You can help your child avoid feeling ashamed by your divorce by making it clear the divorce is not a reflection on them.
You might say that you and your spouse made the decision together (even if you didn’t ) and you both feel it is the best decision for the family (even if you don’t).
2. “Maybe you’ll get back together.”
It’s very common for kids to be hopeful that you’ll stay together after all.
They might watch how you interact together – and if it looks like you’re getting along, they can become hopeful you’ll get back together.
If your decision to divorce is final, it’s important to tell that to your children.
It’s generally best to be firm, yet gentle. They’re likely to experience their own grief about the divorce.
3. “You might stop loving me too.”
Younger children in particular might worry if they do something bad or you get mad at them, you’ll stop loving them and perhaps even leave them too.
They might be on their best behavior around you. Or become reluctant to express an opinion you might disagree with.
Whether or not your child comes out and says it, it’s important to reassure your son or daughter that you will both always be their parents and always love them no matter what.
4. “I’ll need to leave my school and friends.”
It’s very common for children of divorcing parents, regardless of age, to worry about moving away and leaving their friends behind.
Children generally tend to thrive on consistency, structure, and routine.
Therefore, it’s a good idea for you and your spouse to first develop a custody and parenting time plan or agreement together.
At a minimum, this should include where the children will primarily live, whether they will stay in the same school or district, and how often and when they will they spend time with each of you.
For more information on custody and parenting time agreements, see this post.
Then, once you have a custody and parenting plan, you and your spouse (ideally together) can give your children the details they want and need to know to put their minds at ease.
It’s extremely important that your children know they can always come to you and tell you whatever is on their minds.
As difficult as it can be when going through your own emotional turmoil with divorce, knowing your kids have the answers they need can go a long way towards easing the transition for everyone.
Thank you for reading! To receive up-to-date divorce tips, answers, and developments in the law, subscribe to our weekly blog.