Children and Divorce
Why do children feel that a divorce means they did something wrong?
Emotions can be extremely overpowering as an adult, for children they are drastically heightened. Divorce is a stressful and emotional experience for not only the adult but more so for the children. Children have a difficult time processing the situation due to cognitively not being able to process the factors that went behind the decision. As a child, the traumatic experience of witnessing your parents’ marriage and your foundation dissolve makes you start questioning your part in the decision.
During this process, children may wonder if they played a role in the divorce. Children start recalling any arguments with their parents, any moments of misbehavior, or failures in school that may have sparked arguments between their parents. To make sure that your child understands that the decision for the divorce had nothing to do with them, here are some suggested steps to take:
1. Be honest about the reason for the divorce
Inform your children of the reason behind the decision that was made in a concise and simple way. Do not place any blame on either party to ensure that your child does not feel forced to take sides. This brings about additional stress that impacts your child negatively in their emotional development. Divorce is already a highly stressful time for everyone, so be aware that your child is also processing their emotions and how to cope with the situation. (Kemp et al., 2019).
2. Understand the patience needed for the child to process the change
Your children will have their own difficult days and there is no timeframe for your child to come to terms with the decision. Your role as a parent is to understand your child’s feelings and not make them feel judged for their emotions. Everyone processes change at different rates, so be patient with your child. This will allow your child to have a safe space with you where their feelings are validated. This safe space can also be utilized in the future to cope with whatever hardships they may face.
3. Provide physical closeness
The bond between you and your child has been set since their infancy years. Touch is one of the basic means to communicate, however, it also provides the ability to positively impact their cognitive brain function and socioemotional development. Physical affection helps your children feel safe and secure with you, as you are their foundational base throughout their years. This will provide the ability to have healthy and trusting relationships with others and positive self-esteem with oneself (PowerofPositivity, 2020).
This is an extremely difficult time for the whole family. As a parent, the goal is to help your child navigate through their journey in life. Your own emotions can feel overwhelming, so remember to give yourself outlets and time with other supportive adults to process your own feelings. This will give you the headspace and the emotional energy to engage with your children in a healthy and supportive way. “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm. Not join their chaos.” -L.R. Knost.
Kemp, G., Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2019). Children and Divorce. Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/…/children-and-divorce.htm
Power of Positivity. (2020). Therapists Reveals How Physical Touch Is Linked to Brain Development in Kids. Power of Positivity. https://www.powerofpositivity.com/brain-development-in…/