Each year, more than 1 million children experience the divorce of their parents. Divorce rates peaked in 1979-1981 at 5.3 per 1000 persons and decreased by 1995 to 4.4 per 1000 persons. Approximately 50% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in divorce (Cohen, American Academy of Pediatrics). Moreover, the American Psychological Association notes that children of stepfamilies face higher risks of emotional and behavioral problems.
Scary statistics, however, there are things you can do to help your children during a time of transition. It is important to use age appropriate explanations. Children often believe they are the cause of divorce or they can fix it.
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These ten tips will help your child adjust:
1. Never force your child to take sides or involve your child in an argument.
2. Don't criticize or fight with you ex- spouse in front of your child. If your child overhears you arguing explain that sometimes people say hurtful things when they are upset, however there are better ways to communicate your feelings. Discuss your concerns with your ex when your child is not present. It is not helpful to bring them into your arguments or adult discussions.
3. Respect the relationship they have with the other parent. It is important to let your children show their love to both parents and spend time with each without feeling guilty. Provide your child with reassurance that both their parents still love them even though they may only be living with one parent at a time.
4. Your children know more than you think they know- so talk with them early on and often.
5. Create safety by listening and trying to understand their point of view. Don't try to rescue, overcompensate (by doing or giving them things), or problem solve. The best thing you can do is listen as they express their feelings, without judgment.
6. Be open about what is happening without giving too much unnecessary information. For example, "Your father and I are having problems and we need to separate because we cannot get along with each other".
7. Let you child know that it is not their fault and they cannot fix the problem.
8. Do not blame your ex-spouse. This creates a problem with alliances. Your child needs you to model healthy boundaries so they do not become co-dependent, feeling like they need to be responsible for another's well being.
9. Create a schedule. Children crave consistency; it is the way they feel psychologically and physically safe. Keep a routine, even amongst the transitioning between two households.
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10. Let them know they are loved and you are willing to listen and try your best to answer questions they have.
If you are looking to support your child during the transition of divorce, we can help. Click here to schedule a complimentary Child Support Consultation and learn how you can help your child.