Tips to Help Children Through Divorce
Divorce can be difficult for both parents and children. For children who are between the ages of nine and 12 – a stage in which children may already be dealing with their own emotional, physical, and mental growth changes – here are some tips that can help:
1. Talking about your problems is a good thing, and honesty is the most important.
2. Never repress your feelings. Check in with your parents regularly – tell them how you feel; what is going on with you and what you need to do better.
3. Don’t choose one parent’s side over the other.
4. Don’t become either parent’s protector – they are grown-ups and do not need your help.
5. Don’t become a collaborator, agent, or a messenger. Let your parents relate to each other independently.
6. Don’t feel guilty, or blame yourself. Children have no control over their parent’s relationship.
7. It is okay to spend time with each parent alone. You are apart of both, and can love them both equally.
8. Allow yourself to grieve the end of your original family. This will help you open to the possibilities of your own resource and transition into a new and healthier family structure.
9. Give up the secret mission of reuniting your family.
10. Keep involved with your same gender parent, especially during puberty. This will help you answer questions about gender at a time when confusion and doubt about gender may arise.
11. Have empathy for yourself and your parents.
12. Keep as normal a routine as possible. This will help you feel more in control when everything seems out of control.
13. Don’t try to take on the role as head of the house or homemaker. You are children and entitled to your childhood.
14. At the end of the day, it is important to have open conversations about your feelings. If you can’t put them into words, then draw, play, dance, and keep a journal. You are entitled to your feelings – they are legitimate. Divorce is a loss of innocence, and as a child you have been put into a space that is new and frightening.
15. It is important at times like this to be able to ask for what you need for support – perhaps, just a cuddle; or a walk with either parent; a night light; a favorite toy; or a picture or phone conversation with the absent parent.
16. Mainly it is important to validate your feelings so that you can be reassured of your value and self-worth as member of your family, and that you will never be abandoned.