Divorce and Kids

Divorce as a process and end result can be very unsettling for kids.  The basic reasons for divorcing (break of trust and truth between two adults) are the very foundation that a child’s life is built on. So when this base breaks, the child often feels those effects deeply. 

There are two keys to steadying this base through these tougher times. 

         First is to keep your own spiritual, behavioral and emotional life as stable as possible.  Children follow their parents, so when a parent is deeply struggling in these areas the children are likely to struggle as well. Get the emotional, spiritual and professional help that you, as a parent, need to steady and stabilize yourself.

Second, set and keep clear and consistent boundaries with your spouse and your child. Some specific suggestions include:

Keep your divorcing conversations and arguments away from the kids, as the kids will have a natural inclination to feel responsible and want to fix it. 

Be consistent and dependable with family behavioral rules.  When a child experiences divorce their world feels very unstable or chaotic.  They gain a better sense of control and safety when adults set clear and wise boundaries and parent their child’s behavior consistently.

 Deal with the details.  Divorcing creates a lot of uncertainty, both emotionally and physically for a child.  Writing the schedules down with specific details (of school projects and activities, regular homework, sports, holidays, visitations, birthdays) so that mom, dad and child all have the same calendar is wise.  Following the schedule and communicating changes is essential to maintaining trust.

 Answer your child’s questions about these life-changing choices factually and empathically, without blame or accusation.  Be aware of your parental and marriage boundaries – kids do not need to know everything; they mostly want to know if you have control over their world.  (See Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud).  

 Affirm, enjoy, encourage, speak to the positive side of circumstances, criticize less and listen more; parent intentionally and calmly.

 Help the child talk through and experience the love and consistency of Jesus.  A child will often think, “If mom and dad leave me, then Jesus will leave me too.”  Help them see and experience that Jesus is different than mom and dad. 

Divorce has life long impact on every family member and those impacts will demonstrate themselves differently as the child matures. Touching base with the child throughout the years about his feelings and beliefs help the child - and yourself - continue the healing process throughout a lifetime.  









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