Whether your divorce occurred a few years ago or is happening right now, chances are you’re wondering if you’re doing all that you can to help your children adjust after divorce.
Children have a variety of ways they respond to their parents’ divorce, including feeling afraid, withdrawing, showing resentment, being angry, or exhibiting hyperactivity. Chances are, you will see some of these changes in your child or children and these changes in their behavior may cause you to feel a mixture of guilt and worry.
However, as the adult and parent, you do have a certain degree of control over what happens in both the short and long-term. In many cases, children respond to divorce in a way similar to their divorcing parents. If you are routinely despondent and mourning, or verbally angry and aggressive, your children will pick up on these behaviors and mimic them.
Helping Children Adjust After Divroce
However, if you approach your post-divorce life in a proactive, affirming way, not only will your kids have a better chance to adjust after divorce in a healthy way, you will too! Here are a few tips and strategies that you can try to help your children adjust after divorce:
Emphasize what will not be changing
Kids of all ages get worried about their habits and routines changing when their parents get divorced. During this time, it’s important to emphasize what aspects will not change. Will they stay at the same school? Will they still attend the same after school activities? Will they still have access to their friends and relatives? Will they still live (at least part of the time) in the same house? Even if your divorce is bringing about lots of change in their lives, one thing that won’t change is the love you have for them. Be sure they hear that from you!
Extra attention is good
It’s important to spend extra time with your kids, whether that be mealtime or bedtime, to have quality conversations about how they are feeling and what is happening in their lives. If you can be attentive and caring, their stress will decrease and improve their chances of adjusting well.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to put on an act and pretend to your children that everything is perfect. Be honest with them: Divorce hurts. But beyond this simple truth, it’s important to cultivate an attitude that believes the future will be positive and that everyone, parents and children, will successfully navigate through the painful times.
Look for the signs your children are doing well
Keep your eyes and ears open for the following behaviors. When you spot them, you’ll know that your child is on the right path for adjusting well after the divorce.
- Being social. Is your child keeping up with their friends? Do they want to go on playdates and spend time with the friends they had before the divorce?
- Expressing opinions. Is your child able to express their opinions about the divorce? It doesn’t matter if they are positive or negative opinions, the important factor is that your child feels comfortable enough to honestly share them with you.
- Staying the course in school. If you start to notice that school grades are falling or discipline problems are increasing, then it’s time to have a talk with your child’s teacher without delay.
- Behavior at home. Routine complaints about chores, bed-time and computer game / television watching are normal, but if your child’s behavior starts to become aggressive or belligerent toward you, then it’s time to seek some outside mental health counseling for you and your child or children.
Are hobbies and personal interests still important?
Are your children showing interest in the prior hobbies and developing new ones? Talk to your child and seek outside help if you feel your child is losing interest in multiple aspects of his or her life and excessively withdrawing from you and others.
Maintain pre-divorce rituals and joint activities.
Even though daily life patterns change after a divorce, try to maintain the joint activities and rituals you enjoyed before. Whether it’s going to the library on a certain afternoon or stopping in for a treat at the local bakery or candy store, use the time to connect with one another and have fun.
If you begin to notice behavioral or emotional changes in your child, be sure to discuss it with your family pediatrician or family mental health counselor. The majority of children do successfully adjust after a divorce, but it never hurts to keep an eye on them and yourself, and seek outside help when it’s needed.
Adjust After Divorce: Additional Information
If you or your spouse will be filing for divorce in Northern Colorado or reside in the Larimer County or Fort Collins region, and want to explore divorce options that protect your children as much as possible, do not hesitate to contact Laura Monty Law. We provide collaborative divorce representation, divorce mediation services, legal advising for uncontested divorces, and a full array of divorce and family law services in Northern Colorado. We strongly believe in taking a compassionate approach to family law, and recognize that every situation is unique.