Divorce can be tough – and when you have kids, you might tend to worry about how they’ll handle this difficult transition.
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.
- “It’s all 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).
- “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.
- “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.
- “Where will I live?”
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 agreement together.
At a minimum, the agreement 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.
Even if you and your spouse don’t yet have a formal agreement on custody and parenting, you can still give your children the details they want and need to know to put their minds at ease.
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.
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