Helping children through divorce

How you can help your children survive divorce

One primary concern parents have when going through a divorce is the impact on their children. Children are often afraid and feel powerless during the process. Unlike adults, they don’t have any ability to affect what they’re going through. They are powerless victims of the changes happening in their lives. The loss of stability can leave them needing reassurance of being loved. They also need to feel as secure as they can in their environment. Thankfully, children are resilient. With counseling, patience, and time they can make it through the process and manage the emotional hardship they’ll face.

Steps To Helping Children Navigate Through Their Divorce

Children who have parents who are getting a divorce are going to have a significant number of questions, regardless of their age. As the adults in the situation, you need to be aware that these questions are coming and why they’ll be asking them. How you respond to these questions can help prevent them from feeling as much uncertainty and prevent the situation from seeming worse. 

You also need to realize that children are very observant. They’ll often notice that something is going on long before either of you bring up the concept of divorce. While they won’t voice their concerns openly, they’ll be aware that something is changing in their lives. The emotions and feelings they experience can include many of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Abandonment
  • Anger
  • Alienation
  • Disbelief
  • Loss
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Fear of the Future
  • Helplessness
  • Peer Conflict
  • Irrational Risk-Taking
  • Rejection
  • Loneliness

There are countless ways these feelings and thoughts may manifest. One factor involved in how they appear going to be the age of the child and their circumstances. Some children may become withdrawn and sullen, engage in risky sexual activities, drink alcohol, take drugs, or lash out violently. Some may even begin developing suicidal tendencies.

The intensity of these reactions could be even greater if they were sprung on them out of the blue. As you work your way through the divorce, it’s essential to make your child a priority. The outcome can otherwise be persistent emotional and psychological damage that can take years to overcome. What to watch for can change as your children age:

  • Children who are greater than five years of age will be more aware of what’s happening in their lives. They need to be reassured, told they are loved, and that what they’re feeling about the changes happening is ok. They also need to know that both parents will still be involved in their lives.
  • Children who are six to eight years old will be even more aware. They’ll have a greater understanding of the events and will ask pertinent questions. They’ll have more relationships outside the home that will impact how they react and think about the situation.

After nine years of age, their ability to judge their situations. Their curiosity about the world is greater, but they often struggle with emotional control. This is particularly true during puberty. At this age, they may try to place blame for the divorce, which you should try to prevent. Pointing fingers, on anyone’s part, will only make the situation more difficult.

Arrange For A Counseling Session If Divorce Is Happening

If you are going through a divorce, the best thing you can do for your child is schedule counseling for the family. Both private and group counseling can help the entire process go smoother for everyone involved. The sooner you start, the better the outcome will be.

Share this post

headshot of dr.miller

Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.