Question: My husband and I are getting divorced. Our kids are really upset. One is giving me a lot of attitude, saying it’s all my fault. The other one just cries all the time. Their grades are suffering, too. What can we do to help them through this tough time?
Answer: Divorce is hard on everyone – parents and kids – so the first thing to do is to acknowledge that, and acknowledge your children’s feelings.
Next, explain as much as you can, in simple terms and developmentally/age appropriate detail, about the reason for divorcing and the plan for parenting. Explore possible options for the children, and maintain structure and consistency at both households as much as possible. Instability and uncertainly make kids scared, so structure and consistency are vital.
Let them know, over and over again if you need to, that you and your husband love and support them, and that both of you will do the best you can for their sake.
It is typical for children to experience divorce as a loss, so grieving symptoms – such as crying/sadness or anger – are normal. Encourage your children to have open communication with each other and with you and your husband about how they are doing and what they need to help them through this difficult time.
Teach your children coping skills or ways to calm themselves down when they’re upset, such as deep breathing, art/drawing, journaling, talking to others, etc.
If you’re still worried about your kids’ mental health or your family’s relationship overall, consider counseling, particularly if the divorce is affecting their ability to function at home or in school.
Danielle Kinard-Friedman is a former senior therapist at Center for Child Counseling in Palm Beach County.