If you’re undergoing a divorce, it may feel overwhelming. However, if you have children with your spouse, you’ll also need to deal with your children’s feelings about the divorce. As intense as your emotions may seem to you, your children’s emotions are likely to be much more intense. After all, according to MYMOVE, LLC, death and divorce are the two most stressful life events, with moving coming in third.
What Types of Emotional Reactions May Occur?
According to VerywellFamily, children dealing with divorce struggle the most during the first years of the divorce. Young children’s emotions may center on very concrete issues, like trying to understand why they need to travel between two houses. Elementary school children may fear the divorce is their fault. Teens, who are struggling with maturity issues, may act out with anger and blame and resent one of the parents. (1)
Those troubling emotions often lead the children to act out and show negative behaviors. They may begin to get into fights at school, or with their brothers and sisters. You may see them staying quietly in their rooms and avoid talking to you or to the rest of the family. On their next report card, there may be a drastic decrease in their grades. If you have a preschooler, they may start wetting their beds again.
What Should Parents Do?
Supporting your children begins with communication. As soon as you and your spouse decide to divorce, you should talk with your children. If possible, both parents should be there for the talk. Let the children know about how the changes in parenting will affect their schedules and living arrangements.
Let your children know you both love them. Be sure to let your kids know the divorce is not their fault. If infidelity was involved in your divorce, there’s no need to let your children know the details. At the end of the discussion, let your children ask questions, and end by repeating that you love them.
What Can Make Things Easier?
In the beginning stages of a divorce, it’s typically best to keep the children’s routine as unchanged as possible. The children should stay in the home that was shared by the parents, remain in the same school and keep their home routine. This may help reassure your children that the change hasn’t destroyed their lives.
It will take some time for the family to get used to the new living arrangements of the patents. Statistics show that in three-quarters of divorced families, the children live with the mother. Your children may react in different ways to visiting their father. Continue providing opportunities for them to talk about their feelings and to express any frustration they may feel.
What About Financial Issues?
Splitting the income the family was sharing is sure to have some financial impact. To give one example, as of 2020, filing for divorce in California costs $230. Let your children know if this will cause any changes in their routines. Empathize with them if they express resistance to a new budget.
Try to let your children feel included in the choices you make about financial changes. For example, if you need to cut down on TV subscriptions, you could get a family vote to choose the one you’ll drop. If your grocery budget has been decreased, let your children go grocery shopping with you. Let them know what the food budget is, and allow them to help choose how you spend available money.
Divorce will cause a transition period for your family. While doing your best to handle your emotions, be intentional about supporting your children through their emotions. With love, patience, and support, you and your family will survive the divorce together.