Divorce is never easy. But for most parents going through a divorce, one of their most important concerns is how the divorce will affect their children. Every child will react differently, but many children of all ages will feel that the divorce is somehow their fault. You can help them through this emotional time by understanding your kids' normal reactions and how you can support them.
Child Reactions to Divorce
Depending on the age of your kids, you can see a wide range of emotions and reactions during a divorce. Your kids may display:
- Guilt: Guilt is a normal reaction to news of a divorce, particularly in younger kids. You may need to tell them expressly that it's not their fault.
- Anxiety: Divorce can change daily routines drastically, including where kids live and go to school. It's natural for these disruptions to make kids anxious. Try to make new routines as consistent as possible and post a calendar for younger kids so they can see where they'll be every day.
- Behavior Issues: Acting out can be a response to anxiety or finding new boundaries. If possible, try to keep boundaries and structures similar in both homes.
- Regression: With big changes, kids often need more attention from their parents. Be patient and consistent, and things will even out eventually.
- Withdrawal: Kids can also withdraw from parents, isolating themselves more. While you should give your kids the space they need, try to schedule special activities with them and make it clear you're there to listen when they need you.
- Losing Focus: It's normal for kids sometimes to have trouble focusing while processing big life changes. Let their teachers know what's happening and try to create a stable and chaos-free environment at home to support your child.
Supporting Your Kids Through Divorce
You may feel helpless watching your children reacting to divorce and loss. But there are things you can do to help support your kids:
- Listen: Be there for them when they need to talk and listen to what they have to say.
- Remain Calm: Remember that the reactions you're seeing are normal and part of a child trying to process big emotions. Model calm, reassuring behavior so that your kids feel supported.
- Stay Civil with Your Ex: Conflicts inevitably arise when co-parenting, but your kids need to see you and your ex compromising, working things out, and doing what's best for your kids. Don't trash your ex to your kids; they don't need to be in the middle of your relationship.
- Get Support: If your kids need more help, find a counselor or therapist to talk to. Your child's school may have resources and educational support as well.
For many families, a divorce can initially feel overwhelming and scary. But with time, love, and consistency, you and your children can make it through this stressful time.
If you're considering divorce in North Carolina, we can help. Give us a call at 919-719-2785 or contact us online. I'm an experienced family law attorney, and I'm happy to help you find a solution.