We’ve seen it happen. Parents get a divorce, and the children spiral downward. Their grades start to fail. They act up at home and at school. They may even turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape or coping mechanism. What can parents do to help their children through this difficult time? Here are a few suggestions.
Acknowledge Their Struggles
First and foremost, acknowledge the fact that your child began suffering emotionally before the divorce began. Kids aren’t stupid. They could see what was happening to their family. Recognizing that there is already damage there can help parents to be understanding of their children.
Spend Quality Time With Them
Spend time with your child. Unless the divorce is over a situation that causes a danger to the child, they need to understand that both of their parents still love them and can be a part of their life. They need to know that they won’t have to choose between the two of you. And they need you not to play them off of the other parent. Using a child as a bargaining chip will make them fell unloved. Using them as a confidant is too much emotional pressure regardless of how mature they may seem.
Don’t Argue in Front of Them
Try not to argue in front of the kids. Divorces rarely go smoothly, but the disagreements can happen in private. Try using the phone instead of discussing things while picking up or dropping off the kids, that way if an argument does develop, it can be kept away from the children’s ears.
Help Them by Helping Yourself, Too
Find someone to talk to who can support you emotionally. If you have that, not only will you not put that burden on you child, but you can also have to the energy to care for their emotional needs. Maintain an open dialogue. Make sure they feel comfortable telling you that think what is happening sucks and why. Even if they are mad at you, while it can be tough to hear, let them know they can get it out, and you will try to help them understand why things are happening the way that they are.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you can’t provide extra help with school work, look into hiring someone who can. Also, don’t be too ashamed to get your children some therapy sessions if the emotions they express seem to require professional assistance. In the end, the amount of damage a divorce does to a child is often related to how much damage prevention the splitting couple is able to provide.