The breakup of their parents’ marriage can frighten and confuse children, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This difficult time may devastate children of all ages and threaten their sense of security. Whether you and your husband decide to try a trial separation or file for divorce, helping the children adjust requires effort and consideration. Depending on their ages and personalities, your children may require more than a little help with this life-changing event.
Sit down with your children, and talk to them about your plans to separate. Make this conversation age appropriate, taking into consideration your children’s level of understanding and ability to process information. Choose a time when everyone can be present and eliminate interruptions, such as telephone calls and visitors. If possible, include your husband in this family meeting to help answer your children’s questions together.
Present the facts, and avoid placing blame or attacking your spouse. Inform your children of the changes they will experience. Let them know where each parent will live and when the children will spend time with each of you. Minimize their fear of the unknown by explaining your plans for their schooling, visits with relatives, and job changes you may need to make. Assure them that they are not to blame for the separation and confirm your feelings of love for each of them.
Answer any questions your children have about their new situation. Your children may need time to process this new information. Promote open discussions by encouraging questions and spending time with each of your children. If your child seems unable to voice their questions or concerns, ask them how they feel or what you can do to help them through this rough time.
Consult a family counselor for advice on helping your children deal with your separation. Discuss your parenting concerns and marital issues with your professional therapist. In addition to providing you with helpful methods to deal with parenting issues, family counseling can help your children voice their fears and learn positive ways to cope.
Encourage your children to develop mentoring relationships with trusted adults, such as grandparents, close family friends and spiritual leaders, especially if your emotional state limits your ability to focus on their needs.
- Keep your anger to yourself. Although you may rightly blame your husband for your divorce, voicing this to the children only promotes feelings of sadness and confusion.
- Crying Little girl image by Olga Sapegina from Fotolia.com