A family unit is a supportive and protective structure for children - when a separation or divorce occurs, this structure collapses and, depending on the developmental age of a child, this may result in loneliness, insecurity of uncertainty, and can sometimes be a very terrifying experience for kids. It's not an unknown fact that divorce rates are about the highest percentage they've ever been and regardless if a divorce happens when a child is in preschool, middle school, or an early adult - it affects ALL children one way or another. Please read the information provided in this section as a framework for helping children deal with the reality of divorce keeping in mind the majority of children who had both parents living together at one point or another thought it couldn't happen to them and their family.
With that said, all children of divorce must resolve certain things to achieve healthy development in their lives.
Acknowledging the reality of the divorce is key! Not being able to accept it at first is common, but it is crucial to work towards acceptance; not only acceptance of the initial divorce but acceptance of the permanence of it. Many students hold onto the fantasy that their parents will eventually get back together and if they can't let that go, it will be hard to move forward.
Children often blame themselves and are very angry either at one parent, both parents, or angry at themselves for "helping it get this way" or get to this point. They go back in their minds to think about how they could've done things differently ("I shouldn't have fought with my sister so much, because then mommy or daddy wouldn't yell at me, which turned into them yelling at each other"). Children must forgive themselves for the family break-up, even if it's not at all their fault!
A divorce may influence how children view relationships, thinking they don't want to become involved in any relationship because it will fail. They need to realize that not all relationships will fail; on the other hand, they need to come to the realization that not all relationships will succeed.
- Children need to focus on THEIR self-esteem and self-worth
- Books are a wonderful resource in helping your child go through the divorce - and if they're old enough, letting them read the book on their own with themselves
- Each child copes differently: discussing this with them and helping them be aware of how they cope most successful may help
- Encourage children to think about the future and look forward to it, knowing challenges will lie ahead and discussing their strengths dealing with them when they come
- As parents, remember to focus on children's needs rather than on past problems
- Be open and honest about the divorce with your child (leaving out negative information about the other parent - this may just hurt too much)
- Respect the parent-child relationship and, even though sometimes this happens, please try to refrain from seeking counseling from your child for your own problems