If your parents got divorced when you were a child, you know how tough the transition can be. Divorce can be confusing and traumatic for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.
Now that you are getting divorced yourself, you naturally want to do whatever you can to minimize the pain your children might feel. Here is some advice for handling the adjustment, based on your kids’ age range.
Little children’s memories of their parents’ divorce may fade, but they may not. Either way, the trauma of not living with one parent anymore can affect them years afterward. Try to establish a custody and visitation routine as soon as possible – and stick to it. Make sure your child continues to exist in a loving, secure and emotionally supportive environment.
While children this age have a better grasp of abstract concepts and are curious about the world, they still will have a hard time understanding that their parents are splitting up. When their parents fight, children aged 3-5 feel scared and that their world is falling apart. They may blame themselves and beg their parents to go back to the way things used to be. Again, establishing new housing routines as soon as possible after the divorce can help. And do your best to remain civil with your ex in your child’s presence.
Children ages 6-12 may have the hardest time dealing with their parents’ divorce. They are old enough to remember when their parents were happy together and have a greater understanding of their own feelings. Still, kids this age to think about their parents’ divorce about themselves. They often ask questions like, “Doesn’t Mom/Dad love me anymore?” and “Is this because I was bad?” They can lash out in anger and try to manipulate you. In most cases, the best thing for pre-teen children of divorce is to handle as much of the legal details behind closed doors as possible. Unless abuse is a factor, both parents should remain in the child’s life as much as possible.
Most teens have a good idea when their parents’ marriage is in trouble, and the reasons why. They may even feel relieved when they find out about the divorce. What teens want from their parents in this situation is honest conversation and the chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
The legal side of divorce should not be your children’s concern. You and your spouse, along with your divorce attorneys, will find a solution on your own.