Helping Children Through a Divorce

Divorce can be a difficult time for any family, and coping with divorce can be even more difficult for children. Throughout the process, it is important that you keep your children’s ages, maturity levels and individual personalities in mind, as children react differently. Validate their emotions and reactions, and listen to what they are saying. When necessary, help them put their feelings into words.

If divorce has struck your family, here are some tips to keep your children happy and healthy:

Have a plan

When you first tell your children about the divorce, make sure both parents have the same plan. Leave out negative feelings, make sure your kids understand it is not their fault and ensure them that mom and dad still love them very much.

Be prepared for questions

Don’t be shocked if your children have questions about the divorce. Be as open and honest as possible without arguing or placing blame on the other parent. Avoid legal discussions, but be prepared to answer questions like: “Do I have to move?”, “What about holidays?”, or “Will I still see my friends?”

Stay consistent

From routines to parenting styles, stay as consistent as possible. If both parents can stay on the same page – from bedtime routines to bigger decisions – it will be better for the children. Try and keep your children’s lives as close to normal as possible through communication and patience with each other.

Remain alert

Children must go through a coping period, where they mourn the loss of the family unit they once knew. Stay alert to your child’s behaviors and mood swings. If you have older children, make sure you keep an eye on their activities, as stress can lead to dangerous decision-making.

Get support

Get the support you need from friends or professionals, do not seek it from your kids, even if they are old enough to help. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally so that you can remain focused on your children.

If you find that your child is struggling from a recent divorce, remember that your UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics pediatric team is always available to listen and provide care when necessary.