Helping Children Cope When Their Parents Divorce

In June of 2015, an Oakland County Michigan family court judge reversed her earlier decision holding three children in civil contempt and sending them to juvenile detention for refusing to meet with their father. Instead, the children were sent to a summer camp where they were to visit with their father with a camp “parenting supervisor” present.

The parents have been in and out of court regarding custody and visitation issues since 2009. The children, ages 9, 10, and 15 years of age, live with their mother in Michigan and their father lives in Israel, but visits Michigan often for business purposes. According to court documents, the children refuse to visit with their father because they think he had abused their mother; however, there is no record to indicate any ill-toward behavior by the father of any kind.

This is a terrible outcome for children of divorce. Parents who love their children do not want their children to suffer while their parents are divorcing.

Listed below are suggestions for parents to help their children while the parents are going through a divorce.

Talk with Your Children – and Often! In age-appropriate language, explain that you and your spouse are getting divorced and that both parents’ love for their children will not change. Also, reassure them that they were not the cause of the divorce. Allow and encourage your children to express their feelings about the divorce and related issues, such as address changes and new parental relationships.

Avoid Blaming the Other Parent. Be respectful of the other parent and don’t argue in front of the children.

Constantly Reassure Your Children. Remind them that both parents love them and will always be there for them. Reassure them that things will improve in time. Constantly tell your children you love them and show your love for them with hugs and closeness.

Maintain a Routine in Family Life. Children find comfort and security when there is a routine followed and when they know what to expect in each parent’s home, even if the routine is different in each location.

Get Professional Help: Speak to your child’s teacher, doctor or therapist for professional references if your child shows signs of anxiety or depression, such as:

  • Sleep problems or poor concentration

  • Withdrawal from family and other loved ones or loved activities

  • Harming themselves, such as by eating disorders or cutting

  • Abusing drugs or alcohol

  • Problems at school

Remember, although the parents’ relationship didn’t last a lifetime, both parents want their children’s lives to be happy and fulfilled for their lifetimes.

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