Divorce isn't easy for anyone. Not only can a split throw both spouses into a tailspin, but it's equally as hard (if not harder) on the children. The emotions, the stress, the general fear of the unknown and everything else involved in a divorce can change a child's behavior in a major way.
But, that doesn't mean divorce "ruins" or "destroys" kids. Plenty of children have successfully made it through a divorce without suffering lasting effects. Is the situation ideal? No. Are there ways to help your child through it? Absolutely. Understanding how you can help your child through your divorce is the first step in the healing process.
Show Your Love
The most important thing that you absolutely, positively need to do is make sure that your child knows they’re loved. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to put, "I love you" on an endless loop. Yes, you can tell your child that you love them. Just don't repeat it to the point where the words have no meaning.
Along with saying it, show your child how much you love them. Showing love will look different for every family. It may mean that you pack a little pick-me-up note in your child's lunch every day, you take your child on a special trip or to a special event, you show up at every soccer practice or you give lots of hugs and cuddles.
Your child may not feeling comfortable expressing their emotions. Make sure that you create an environment that allows them to openly express emotions without fear. If your child wants to cry, then they should cry. If your child needs to vent, that's okay too.
Talk to your child about what's going on, focusing on what they're going through. Listen to what your child is saying without criticizing or correcting them. If your child clams up, tell them that you are always here to listen. Let them know that means you are available anytime they need you.
Provide Alternative Options
Some children won't, or can't, express their emotions. Toddlers and preschoolers may not have the words to tell you how they feel. And older children may feel embarrassed about getting emotional or act distant. Even though it's important to let your child know you're there for them, you don't need to push them into opening up if they aren't ready.
Instead, offer alternative options that provide ways to express emotions without talking. Art is one way to get emotions out without saying a word. Give your child tempera paints, a paintbrush, paper, crayons, markers or even clay to create with. Don't expect your child to always draw a picture of what they're thinking about. Instead, your child might scribble quickly to get frustration out or paint with dark colors to express a sad mood. Other alternative options include dancing, playing a sport or playing music.
You tell your child not to call other kids names, shout or act in any other mean/spiteful type of way. Follow your own advice and do the same. You might feel intense dislike for your soon-to-be ex right now. That's completely understandable. But, you should never voice your opinions or frustrations in front of your child. Your child doesn't need to hear about how Dad is a serial cheater or how Mom spent the family's savings on new clothes. These are adult issues and don't need to weigh on your child.
Keep in mind, avoiding oversharing doesn't mean you need to sugarcoat your relationship or lie to your child. For example, if Dad's out with his new girlfriend and can't go to your child's softball game, uttering, "He's with that witch again" in front of your child isn't helping anyone. Instead, keep things simple and leave your opinion out of it. Something such as, "Daddy is busy right now, but he and I have arranged for the two of you to see each other for dinner later on" takes your negative emotions out of the picture and puts the situation in a positive light.
If you're going through a divorce and need legal help, call Witzel & Zoeller Lawyers PC at 517-337-8324 for a consultation.