Divorce is never easy, but it can be much harder for kids to understand and cope with. You need to support your children post-divorce. Some days, it might feel challenging to take care of yourself as you go through this stressful process — but your child needs you. The psychological effects of divorce on toddlers and older children prove that you must navigate this new life stage carefully.
Here are a few ways to make divorce easier for you and your child.
Make a Plan With Your Co-Parent
Your ex might be your ex, but they’ll still have an active role in your child’s life. You must put aside your differences and work together for your child’s well-being. Co-parenting can benefit your child in several ways, like ensuring they maintain good grades and have higher self-esteem, and parents who work together are stronger than those who don’t.
If possible, try to do some things as a family. If or when you and your ex get new partners, ensure all four adults attend the crucial things to your child. It’ll likely show your kid that their parents love and support them. It may also communicate that they’re more important than your conflict with your ex, which could make them feel loved.
Don’t Speak Negatively Of Your Ex
You wouldn’t want your ex to turn your child against you, so you should show them the same respect and not talk negatively about them in front of your child. After all, even though they’re your ex, they’re still your child’s other parent. Don’t make your child feel like they must pick sides when visiting with either parent.
Be the Emotional Rock
The psychological effects of divorce on toddlers are real, and they may not be able to process information the way older children would, making this time potentially very scary for them. You should be someone your child can turn to, not someone they have to worry about while they try navigating this new normal of their life. Show them how to handle challenging situations with maturity and grace as you finalize your divorce.
Always strive to set an excellent example for your children. Most kids learn things by watching their parents. Your child shouldn’t feel responsible for caring for your mental or emotional state. It’s okay to teach them how to be vulnerable and release their emotions, but it might confuse them even more until they fully process the divorce.
Take Them to Therapy
Your child may need therapy to help them cultivate the coping skills they need to work through their parents’ divorce. Therapy doesn’t mean that anything is necessarily “wrong” with your child, just that you care about their mental and emotional health enough to get them treatment for something that can be traumatic. Support for children post-divorce is necessary; a third-party therapist could help them resolve this tricky situation.
There are several kinds of therapy out there that could work well for your child. Aquatic therapy might be a good option for your child if they typically fear office settings, and being in the water makes them happy. Let them tell you what they think would work best for them — and you can take it from there.
Be Honest With Your Child
Answer any questions your child may have about the divorce openly and honestly. It might help to sit them down and discuss divorce with your ex-partner. That way, both of you are there to answer questions and keep one another accountable, with your child at the front of your mind. You should reaffirm to your child that they’re not responsible for the divorce. Let them come up with questions, and you and your ex can fill in any gaps they may have missed.
Let Them Feel Their Emotions
Children are bound to have intense emotions, and they don’t always have the coping skills or knowledge that adults do on how to work through them effectively. They should be allowed to cry and vent about their feelings to you without feeling like you will judge them. Show your child you’re always there for them and safe to express their feelings. You might just be able to help them work through those complex emotions.
Spend Time With Your Child
Your child may want extra time with you since they may now be split between two households. Try to spend time with them whenever they’re with you. If you have multiple children, give them each a day where they have you to themselves with your full attention. Your child should know that you’re here for them, now more than ever. They must know you’ll always be their parent, no matter the future.
Understand the Psychological Effects of Divorce on Toddlers and Beyond
Divorce can be tough to manage when you’re an adult — it can be much more confusing for a child. The psychological effects of divorce on toddlers, children, teens, and beyond are hard to deny, so you should spend the time and effort ensuring that your kid understands what the divorce entails and receives the proper amount of reassurance and therapy.
You love your child more than anything — so keeping them involved in this significant life change can make a difference. When you support children post-divorce, you ensure they’ll be more well-adjusted in their family.
Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She writes about parenting, fitness, mental health, and nutrition. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.