Divorce comes with a lot of changes. As an adult, you have more experience with understanding and adapting to new phases of life. Since children are less experienced, it’s up to co-parents to help prepare and guide them through divorce.
One of the first steps you can take to help your children cope, is by simply letting your children know that the divorce is happening. Ideally, you and your soon-to-be-ex will sit down together to let your children know you’ve made the decision and that both of you will still be a part of their life. This conversation will look a little different depending on the age of your children.
Here are some different pointers, based on age, to help you during and after an initial conversation:
- Babies, toddlers and preschoolers: If your child is a baby or toddler, then they won’t really be able to comprehend the divorce. But a child who is closer to preschool age will likely need ongoing and simple reminders about why both their parents aren’t home at the same time. One of the best things you can do to help your little ones adjust is by providing as much consistency as possible through daily routines, like meal times and bedtime.
- Elementary school-aged children: Children ages 6 to 8 will still struggle with wrapping their head around the ins and outs of divorce, but kids ages 9 to 11 will likely have a deeper understanding and feelings about the situation. Older school-aged children might want to blame one parent for the divorce and actively try to get parents back together. Assuring your children that the decision to divorce was a joint one, providing stable homes and finding indirect ways to ask about feelings may help them cope.
- Middle school-aged children: Middle school-aged children often have an easier time interpreting the complexities of divorce. It could be hard to decipher if your middle schooler has high emotions about divorce or things going on in their life. So, it’s important to regularly let your children know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you about whatever is on their mind.
- High schoolers: Many teenagers feel like the divorce is somehow their fault. Letting your older children know this isn’t the case and that they can still lean on both of their parents through the good times and the bad is crucial. It’s also worth considering putting aside differences to physically show up to sporting, extracurricular or other special events for your teen.
During this transition, parents may also benefit from seeking support for themselves. This can be from each other, friends or therapy. Although, you should make your children a priority during this time, taking care of yourself can make you a stronger and more aware parent.