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Separation is not easy for kids mainly because they do not fully understand what’s going on. Consequently, they may feel they are responsible for their parent’s separation and divorce. They worry about things never going back to normal again. As a parent, it is normal to worry about the impact that divorcing your partner has on your children. That is why it is so important for parents to help their children learn how to deal with separation or divorce.
If you both decide a temporary separation is best while you figure out how to go forward, think about how you can best help your kids cope with the separation. After all, your decision also affects them.
Things You Can Do to Help Your Child Deal with Separation
Tell Them Only What They Need to Know
First, you should begin by making the decision to tell your kids only what they need to know. Do not overwhelm them with the unpleasant details or happenings that led to the separation or divorce.
Talking negatively to your kids about your partner or blaming your spouse for the separation will only worsen the pain that your kids already feel. Avoid blaming each other or arguing in their presence. Think of constructive ways to help them handle the fact that their home, as they know it, will no longer be the same.
Tips to Help Your Kids Deal With Separation or Divorce
- Tell them the separation is only temporary.
If you and your partner have decided separation is the best route while you figure things out make sure you tell your kids that the move is only temporary. Explain to them that whatever happens after spending some time apart is not their fault.
- Listen to their concerns.
Listening to the concerns that your kids have will aid in helping them handle the separation or divorce. So, do not take their concerns or feelings lightly. Instead, address any concerns they have and reassure them that their worries are valid but they can still count on both of you to be there for them. Tell them how much you love them and let them know that both of you will always love them.
Some of the feelings that may be felt by your kids include anger, sadness, and frustration. Remember to respect their feelings and talk to them about the way they feel. Say “I understand why you feel that way” and don’t forget to check on them from time to time.
- Help them understand why you have decided to get a divorce.
Avoid talking separately to your kids about sensitive matters if you want a positive outcome. Talk to your partner about how you are going to tell your kids about the divorce. Both of you must agree with each other when explaining to them what divorcing means and make sure you agree on important arrangements that need to be made. For instance, a calendar highlighting when each parent will be spending time with them. Once you draw up a plan, aim to keep things as normal as they can be. Having a normal routine and sticking to it will give them a sense of security. It will make them feel cared for by both parents and it is a great way of comforting them.
- Assure your kids that you do not hate each other.
Most kids assume that their parents divorcing means they hate each other. They often jump to the conclusion that they are responsible for making sure they get their parents back together again. Assure your kids that you do not hate each other. Let them know that the decisions you make are between the two of you because you know what’s best.
- Maximize the time you have with them.
One way to help your children deal with your separation or divorce is by maximizing the time you spend with them. Help them with their homework, do fun activities together, and always attend school events.
Just remember to let your children know that you love them. Help them understand that they are not to blame for the separation or divorce. Keep the lines of communication open. However, try to avoid discussing all of the intimate details of the cause for the breakup. This will go a long way to reduce some of the anxiety that your children may experience during this difficult time in your family.
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Cohen, George J., and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “Helping children and families deal with divorce and separation.” Pediatrics 110.5 (2002): 1019-1023.