Understanding what children need when they undergo the stress of divorce, helps them cope during this difficult transition. Remember your children didn’t ask for this change in their lives, which leave them feeling like they have no control.
Understanding what children need when they undergo the stress of divorce, helps them cope during this difficult transition. Remember your children didn’t ask for this change in their lives, which leave them feeling like they have no control. Since they are the center of their own universe, they will blame themselves for your divorce. Reassure them that this was an adult problem and had nothing to do with their behavior. Children go through the same grieving process as adults do – shock, anger, bargaining, sadness and resolution. They will feel confused, frustrated, fantasize about reconciliation, blame themselves for the split, and feel despair. They don’t have the same cognitive structures or support systems like adults to cope with problems. Most often they express emotions through either physical symptoms, acting out behaviors, or withdrawing. Acting out is their way of telling you they are in pain. Now more than ever they need your patience, to be nurtured, and reassured that you still love them.
While every childs’ needs are different, many are the same.
1. Structure and sameness
Keep the same rules (in both houses), same schedules, same friends/family/pet connections, same school if possible, and same outside activities. Children thrive in structure because it makes them know what is expected of them and in turn they feel safe. Sameness makes this transition easier for them.
2. Spend quality time with them
Don’t be a Disneyland dad, where you always try to entertain them. They need quiet time alone with you to pay attention to them.
3. Listen to them and be patient
Your children need to be able to talk to you, even if it involves listening to things you don’t want to hear. They need to beg you to get back with mom, tell you she’s not that bad, the dog misses you, and they will be a better child if you come home. You need to reassure them how much you love them, and will remain in their lives. Don’t give them false hopes of reconciliation if there is none, even if it is natural for them to have fantasies about it.
4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
When you say you’ll be there, be there. There is nothing more distressing for children than to sit and wait, yearn to see you, and then feel rejected by you.
5. Make sure they have a strong support system around them during this transition
Watch for signs of emotional, physical, or behavioral changes. Get them the help they need as soon as you see changes. Don’t dismiss these signs as growing pains or believe they will get over them.
6. They need love and deserve both parents
Don’t criticize or talk badly about your ex in front of them, this causes them great distress. Don’t ask them to choose between parents – this is impossible. Understand that even though you don’t care about your ex-spouse, they still love, need and rely on them.
Statistically most dads have little to no contact with their children within five years after a divorce. This is devastating to a child – you are the only father they will ever have, so make sure your relationship endures. You are their role model, someone to look up to, confide in, love and cherish. Parenting doesn’t end because the marriage did – it’s a lifelong commitment.
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”