One of the greatest fears of many parents is that divorce will scar their children, leading to unhappy childhoods and relationship trouble down the road. Young children, between kindergarten and middle school, are at a special risk of internalizing the pain of divorce. At this age, children are old enough to understand what is going on, but often too young and immature to fully understand the reasons for the split or how they feel about it. Keep reading to find out how to help young children through divorce.
Keep the children out of the fight
The most important thing you can do to help young children through divorce is to shield them from the worst of the fighting. That means when you exchange custody, be sure that everyone stays calm – no screaming or name-calling. Additionally, when you are home alone with your kids, do not, under any circumstance, trash, bad mouth, or berate the other parent. Though you may have legitimate grievances against your spouse, airing your dirty laundry in front of the kids is a terrible decision and puts them in a very uncomfortable spot.
Divorce shakes up the lives of children in fundamental ways. They might have to move or change schools, not to mention getting used to not having both parents around all the time. Given all the changes that are unavoidable, parents should do everything they can to minimize changes that do not have to occur. Ensure that visitation schedules are stable and reliable. Maintain usual school and chore schedules as well as any extracurricular activities. Children thrive on routine and, as much as possible, it should be encouraged during the divorce.
It can be hard to know how to talk to young children about a subject like divorce, but communication is critical to ensuring kids have an outlet for their feelings. Experts recommend telling gentle truths to children this age. While older kids and teens may get more details, young children are often not equipped to hear the full story. Parents should strive to answer all their questions, using gentle, age-appropriate wording.
Source: “How to Help Children Ages 6-12 Through Your Divorce,” by Gail Gross, published at HuffingtonPost.com.