Helping Kids Cope with Divorce

Divorce is agonizing when kids are involved, but parents can help them cope. Parents must remember that the child needs the parent now more than ever. Reassurance, hope, and stability - all can help ease the effects of divorce on children of all ages.

Parents should shield children from “adult concerns,” such as worries about money.

“Bad mouthing” a former spouse also exposes children to conflicts and frustration.

A custodial parent should never pry or quiz a child about the other parent or a child’s visits to the other parent.

Major changes in a child’s life can be very dislocating; family routines and community bonds should be maintained, if possible.

A parent who feels guilty about the divorce should not shower his or her children with gifts. Children appreciate firmness and consistency more than presents.

The custodial parent should encourage kids to call the other parent when there is school news or just to chat.

A family therapist or professional mediator can help when the spouses cannot talk without anger. Likewise, a child having trouble coping with divorce may show regressive behavior, such as excessive clinginess or bedwetting, or he or she may be angry, aggressive, withdrawn, or depressed. Problems in school are also common.

Isolina Ricci, PhD, a family therapist and author of Mom’s House, Dad’s House, says that love makes the world go round for the child of divorce.

“When children are free to love both of their parents without conflict of loyalty, to have access to them both without fear of losing either, they can get on with the totally absorbing business of growing up, on schedule,” says Dr. Ricci.

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