Helping your kids process a divorce

The impact of a divorce on kids can often be one of the items that weigh the heaviest on Pennsylvania parents. Concerns can range from how to break the news to kids initially to how to help children talk about the divorce and work through their own emotions as the process unfolds. All of this can be an influencer in how well former spouses can co-parent together as well.

The first conversation with kids

When the decision to get a divorce has been made and firmed up, parents need to make time to tell their children. When a family includes multiple children of varying age ranges, many parents understandably consider telling kids about a divorce one at a time. However, Psychology Today recommends against this approach.

Telling some children about a divorce before others can lead to feelings of inequality among siblings, especially on the part of those kids told last. In addition, children that are given the news about a divorce first, then must shoulder the burden of keeping the information secret until their siblings know.

For these reasons, having a single family meeting in which all children are informed about the upcoming divorce together is preferred. At this meeting, parents are encouraged to answer questions directly when possible, knowing that many decisions, such as which parent will have custody of the children, have yet to be made.

Conversations through the process

After the initial discussion to tell the kids about the divorce has taken place, parents can then look for opportunities to talk to their children one-on-one. This is important as different children will process the changes differently. The ages and associated developmental stages of kids will largely contribute to this.

For very young kids at pre-elementary school ages, Today's Parent suggests that any conversations focus mostly on children's day-to-day realities. This can include where they will be at bedtime, who will pick them up from school and what they will eat for breakfast. The more concrete and consistent parents can keep these experiences for kids, the better.

As children mature, their abilities to talk about emotions will grow. However, at some point, children may resist such topics. When this happens, parents can take a backdoor approach by talking about someone else, even a fictional someone, or referring to something they read in a book. This helps children to not feel on the spot and help them be willing to talk.

Keeping it going

Lines of communication should be kept as open as possible during and after a divorce. The Huffington Post notes that this should be a focus of parents when related to the other parent as well. When a child is at dad's house, free communication with mom should be allowed. This can contribute to good co-parenting as well as healthy relationships between children and both parents.

Divorcing parents in Pennsylvania who want to know more these and other topics related to managing a divorce should call an experienced family law attorney.