There is no question that divorce is hard on the parties involved, but what about children who have little experience in handling stress or anxiety? How can a child understand and cope with the changes that are happening?
It all comes down to how you and your spouse react to the divorce. Your child relies on you to learn how to respond to life’s changes, so the way you treat each other now or react privately to the divorce will make a difference. Here are a few tips for helping your young child understand and adjust to the divorce.
1. Talk about divorce in an age-appropriate way
It can be hard to put a divorce into words for a small child, but one simple way to explain it would be to say that mom and dad want to live in different homes. You should always explain that the child did nothing wrong and that you both love him or her, but focus on the concept that you and your spouse are happier living apart. For instance, “Mommy and daddy want to have our own houses. Would you like to visit both?” Breaking it down into a positive situation with the benefit of having two homes could be something children might look forward to instead of fear.
2. Be positive
A positive attitude goes far with kids, especially in the early years. When you talk about divorce, don’t make it sound like it’s the worst thing that ever happened to you — even if it is. Focus on what’s good about it. You’ll have a calmer home environment, have time to spend with your child one-on-one and even get to decorate how you want. Positive reactions to stress help your child learn to cope in a respectful and appropriate manner.
3. Consider therapy
Of course, not every situation is perfect, and you may need additional help. Don’t feel ashamed to have a therapist talk to your child. Children often open up to strangers in safe environments. Therapists can help them work through emotions without feeling that they’re disappointing their parents. A therapist could also help you understand how to best assist your children express themselves so they can learn to manage emotions at home and not just in clinical settings.
These are a few tips to help your child survive your divorce. With patience and persistence, you’ll get through this together.