Divorce can be a traumatic and stressful experience for the adults involved, but for the children, it has the potential to be permanently scarring. The way you and your spouse behave towards each other and with the children can lay the foundation for your children’s social and interpersonal interactions in the future.
However, divorce doesn’t have to be devastating for your child. Parents, as they wallow in their own misery, make common mistakes that actually make the process of getting through the divorce very difficult for the children involved.
One of the more common mistakes that parents make is confiding in the children about what went wrong with the marriage. While children deserve to be told the truth, they don’t need to be told the details of the end of the marriage. It can be traumatic for a child, even a teenager, to hear these details. Instead of confiding in your child, talk to a close friend, or visit a therapist.
Avoid altercations in front of the children, as hard as it may be. Avoid blaming your spouse in front of the child. Avoid emotional scenes. There are few things more terrifying to a child than to see his parents crying.
Avoid coddling your child based on your guilt. As the process of divorce moves on, avoid spying on your spouse through the child. Questions like “where did Daddy go today?” are not only intrusive, but amount to snooping, and do nothing for your child’s psyche.
Broadly, how you handle the divorce, will affect the way your child gets through this trauma. Present the news of the divorce jointly, so that the child knows that even though your relationship as it currently is, will no longer exist soon, his relationship with both of you will remain intact. It’s hard to stress how important this is.
Plan out the conversation before you inform the child about the impending divorce. Don’t just inform your child of the facts – ask him about his feelings.
Children are self-centered, and your child may be worried about how the new arrangements will affect his lifestyle. How much time will he spend with both of you? What happens to his pets? Will he go to the same school, and participate in the same activities as before? Tell your child how you plan to take care of these logistics after the divorce.
Encourage your child to keep in touch with the other parent. In case of behavior problems after a divorce, it may be best to get professional help or therapy.