By Nigel Lawson
After deciding on divorce, it becomes even more complicated when you have to tell your children. It’s no secret that divorce can adversely affect a child's emotional and social development. Confusion, uncertainty, anger, and hopelessness are common feelings children experience under the stress of divorce. This can lead to aggressive behavior, distrust, withdrawal, and even depression. As parents, there are some important things you can do to ease your children’s pain and help them through this difficult transition.
First and foremost, both parents should be a part of the discussion. Have a family meeting where you and your spouse honestly and openly inform your children of your plans to divorce. At this point they may feel confused, scared, and uncertain about the future. It is important that you reassure them they are not the cause of the divorce, and despite the separation, your love for them remains constant.
Have a plan of action. Ideally, both parents should work together to draft a plan of action. This plan will explain some of the changes that will affected the children, such as which parent they will live with, where the other parent will reside, and visitation schedules. Kids are more receptive to concrete explanations. Be specific, and use simple language when addressing their questions. Understanding the situation will ease their stress and help them cope.
Be aware of your children’s psychological needs. In Milinda J. Reed’s book, The Everything Guide to Divorce, we learn that boys and girls may react to divorce in different ways. In terms of boys, she writes, “Pyschologists who have studied the children of divorce report that boys at all ages are more likely to react with increased aggression and stubborn opposition to rules.” Girls, however, “…tend to turn their hurt inward. They try to be very, very good to make sure their remaining parent doesn’t leave, too.” Pay close attention to your children’s behavior after telling them about your divorce. If they exhibit excess aggression or alienation over a considerable period of time, it may signal the need for therapy.Bit your tongue in front of the kids. Children are very attentive and pick up visual and auditory cues very well. Try your best to be respectful or at the least neutral when speaking about your ex-spouse. Listening to negative comments about your ex confuses children. They may feel compelled to agree with the comment in order to prove their allegiance to you. On the other hand, they may view the comment as a criticism of their own judgment of character, and resent you for it. All in all there is no place for negativity when guiding your children through the tempest of divorce.
The health and well being of your children must remain the focus for you and your spouse during the divorce process. Growing up in today’s society is hard enough for children. When the wrench of divorce is thrown into the works it makes it that much more difficult. As hard as it may be, set your differences aside. Work together with your ex-spouse to ensure your children a happy and healthy future.