How Divorce Affects Children

QUESTION: How divorce affects children - What can I do to ease the pain?

ANSWER:

Parents should always consider how divorce affects children and easing the pain of divorce for children should be a priority for both parents. How can parents make divorce less traumatic? It is extremely important to promote open conversations with your children about their thoughts and feelings.

Keep in mind the following:
  • Talk and truly be open to listening. Encourage them to be honest and let them know it's ok to have their own feelings.

  • Let them know that the divorce is NOT their fault. Commonly, children feel guilt and that they have caused the divorce.

  • A conflict of loyalty may increase when the child spends time with one or the other parent. Let them know it is ok to spend time with Mom/Dad.

  • Never bad-mouth the other parent to your child. Encourage your child to love and respect the other parent. Bad-mouthing offers an angry or wounded slant on your ex-spouse and creates confusion and feelings of betrayal in your children. They may withdraw from expressing their feelings since the child is aware of your disapproval.

  • Parents should never criticize and argue with an ex-partner in front of their children. It can be tempting, but is damaging.

  • Refrain from using your child as a pawn. Using them to spite is destructive to everyone involved.

  • Children should not be messengers for parents after a divorce. If a parent needs to tell their ex-spouse something, they should do it themselves. If it is hard for the parents to talk face to face, they should write a letter. Using a child as a go between places them in an unfair and uncomfortable position.
The importance of cooperative co-parenting with your ex-spouse cannot be stressed enough. Children are a wonderful gift from God (Psalm 127:3), and parents have a duty to protect and care for them.

Succeeding may include:
  • Taking care of yourself; your children need you.
  • Taking time in prayer, alone and with your children.
  • Let your kids be kids: It's convenient to turn to your children for comfort, companionship and strength, but that forces kids to grow up too soon and shoulder responsibility that isn't theirs. They are your children, not your confidants and should not be given that unfair position!
Remember, children learn best from their parents' example. Ask God to give you the grace you need to deal with an ex-spouse, to work out parenting plans and conflicts. God will honor your requests and give you sufficient grace to do this.

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