• The old saying of “there are two sides to every coin” couldn’t be more appropriate than when dealing with divorce. When people have a children in common and cannot reconcile their differences much more is stake. There’s a wide spectrum to an individual’s reaction to divorce. Most of the literature discusses the sadness, difficulties, and guilt feelings adults and children may have. And yes, it can be a very tough experience. However, there’s the other side where people feel a sense of relief that the yelling, fighting, and multiple levels of abuse are going to stop.
    The reality is that regardless of their age, children are flexible and will learn to adapt to any situation. The difficulties arise when parents make it more difficult than it has to be by using children as leverage or a means of harming each another. This is what causes children to feel tormented and pressured to take sides. Let’s face it, statistically more families get divorced nowadays than those that stay together. Using the guidelines below will help your children cope with divorce in a healthy manner to facilitate their transition and minimize your stress.

    Tips for discussing divorce with your kids:

    1. 1) Be honest about what’s happening and answer their questions. Don’t shy away from telling them the truth about what’s going on. Use your discretion because they don’t need to know every detail. Let them know that you have differences but that you still care about each other, regardless of how bitter you may feel. Let them know that you and your spouse do not want to live in the same house any longer. Be clear about the fact that it is not their fault and that you both still love them very much. Make sure to discuss specifics with them about living arrangements and visitation so that they know what to expect. When you speak about different houses phrase it carefully — “your house with mom” and “your house with dad” so that they feel that they have two homes and are not ‘visiting’ either parent. Some children will cry and plead; others will act nonchalant, while some may become angry. Remember to respect your children’s feelings by listening and empathizing. But be clear and direct to avoid false hopes and misunderstandings.
    2. 2) Check-in regularly. Follow-up and ask them how they’re doing every day, if possible. They’re already sensitive about separation so don’t abandon them now. They want to know that you care so reassure them that you’re there for them and that that are a priority.
    3. 3) Model appropriate behavior and assure them you’ll be okay. They look up to you for support and if you’re falling apart then this will make it harder for them to keep it together. Demonstrate flexibility and your ability to adapt to whatever comes your way. Not only will you be okay but the change will allow you to be a better person for them.
    4. 4) Describe your needs without putting others down. Stop fighting and don’t bad mouth your spouse or their family. This puts a lot of pressure on your children because they would feel uncomfortable disagreeing with you. They may continue to need your spouse for emotional support and you have to respect that.
    5. 5) Direct communication and no broken telephone. Talk to your spouse directly and don’t put your children in the middle. It puts them in an awkward predicament and your message will most likely not get across accurately. Show them that you can communicate with your spouse despite your differences. This is skill they will utilize throughout their lives.
    6. 6) Coordinate discipline to prevent splitting. Show a united front with your spouse so that they don’t perceive one of you as being more lenient than the other. This will provide consistency for your children and reinforce that there are consequences for their behavior. This will prevent them from using the divorce as an excuse for poor behavior or a decline in their school performance.
    7. 7) Don’t look for revenge. Some people may be tempted to get back at their spouse to make their lives miserable. Although this is destructive behavior directed at your spouse, it will also harm your children. Don’t do it and learn to let go so you can move on with your life.
    8. 8) Stick with routines. With all the changes going on for them, providing structure through consistent routines in their day-to-day lives, such as getting to school on time, meals, doing their homework, and bedtime, will give them a sense of comfort. It will reassure them that they can persevere and that you will continue to care for their needs.
    9. 9) Give them time to adjust. Let them vent and express their anger, frustration or whatever reaction they may have. Their world is changing and they may not fully understand why. It’s not only normal, but expected that they have a reaction. Be patient and let them know that you’re there for them.
    10. 10) Know when to get help for you and them. Know your limitations and seek medical and/or mental health treatment if you or your child becomes overwhelmed, stressed or increasingly irritable to where it adversely affects your day-to-day functioning. If feelings are not addressed, they can lead to a variety or medical and/or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and high blood pressure.