How to make divorce less traumatic for kids
Parents can make divorce less traumatic for their kids by following a few tried and true tips from the Love and Logic Institute.
Be positive around your kids
Over the past 25 years we've met parents who've managed to reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children and ended up raising kids who grew into really nice, responsible adults. Sadly, we've also seen the other side of the coin -- parents who unnecessarily make things much tougher for their children and themselves.
Listed below are some tips that up the odds that children of divorce will grow up well-adjusted, instead of angry, resentful and irresponsible.
Tip No. 1: Assure your kids that the divorce is not their fault
Children, especially younger ones, have a strong tendency to blame themselves for the divorce. What a horrible burden of guilt to bear! From you and your former spouse, they need to hear the following message over and over:
Some kids blame themselves for their parents getting a divorce. It was not your fault. We love you.
Tip No. 2: Avoid badmouthing your former spouse -- even in subtle ways
As we all know, small ears hear more than big ones!
Kids need to know that it's OK to love both of you. Don't place your child in a loyalty conflict by subtly suggesting that they should not love the other parent or have fun when they visit them. One father made this mistake in a very subtle yet damaging way. Each time he picked up the kids at his ex-wife's, he would greet them with a worried look and ask nervously, "Are you guys okay? Did your visit go okay?"
It wasn't long before the kids started to believe that they weren't supposed to have an "okay" time at Mom's house. Oftentimes, these more subtle jabs are the most powerfully damaging.
Tip No. 3: Don't waste time and energy trying to "convert" your former spouse to your parenting style
Some divorced parents waste precious time and energy fighting a never-ending control battle with their former spouse over how to parent the kids. Children adjust to different parenting styles, as long as their parents aren't manipulated into giving in or getting angry. When your kids say things like, "But Dad lets us," experiment with saying the following while not backing down:
You're pretty lucky to have two parents who are different. Thanks for letting me know.
Tip No. 4: Don't hesitate to seek qualified professional help
Our children will never be healthier than we are. The trauma of divorce can result in major financial stress, lost friendships, depression, low self-esteem, anger, etc. A skilled therapist can help you and your kids move on to happier times, instead of getting bogged down in the pain.
One Love and Logic parent commented:
I never thought I'd end up divorced, and when my marriage ended I was devastated. All I could think about were the news reports I'd seen about how messed up kids get when their parents break up. Love and Logic taught me how to take care of myself so that I could take care of my kids. It also taught me that the only thing I can really control is myself and how I react, not how their dad does. That was 10 years ago. I think my kids are still a bit angry over what happened, but they're doing well.
While divorce is certainly very difficult for kids, Love and Logic offers easy-to-learn techniques that really work. Start building a happy future by getting started today.