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How to Help Your Kids with Divorce

Keeping your child safe and happy during and after divorce feels like a tightrope.  

That’s why it’s not uncommon for couples to stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage for the sake of the kids. 

When your separation becomes inevitable, though, you can help your kids navigate the divorce by:

  • Telling them about the divorce in an open and honest discussion
  • Allowing them to grieve the divorce
  • Co-parenting in a productive manner
  • Providing stability
  • Keeping yourself cared for as well
  • Watching for signs of more severe issues

Getting divorced is painful enough for the couple, but your kids need even more help to process complicated emotions throughout your divorce. 


What Kids Experience During a Divorce

Some children deal with a break-up seamlessly, but others have more trouble coping when parents divorce.

To understand how you can help your child cope with divorce and the stressful process of parental separation, it’s essential to consider the child’s age to determine how the situation may impact them psychologically. 

Also, be aware of typical reactions and shared experiences kids face during this difficult time. Learning how many kids cope will allow you to help them more productively.

Feelings of Guilt or Shame

It’s not uncommon for children to feel as though they are to blame for their parent’s divorce. Maybe they think they could have prevented the divorce if they’d done more chores, were well-behaved, or got better grades. 

That reaction is particularly common in elementary-aged and younger children due to their stage of development. Children at this age think they have a more significant impact on the world around them than they do. 

Anger or Behavioral Issues

Another typical response when a child experiences conflict—like the stress of divorce—is lashing out at parents. A child may feel anger or resentment toward either or both parents for their life being turned upside down.

Anxiousness or Sadness

Children thrive on the routines of “normalcy.” When their life is rapidly altered – like during or after a divorce – they can quickly start to feel anxious about all the changes happening and what could be next. 

It’s also common for kids to feel sad or disappointed when their parents’ marriage ends. Perhaps kids feel empathy for one parent or the other parent. Maybe they miss the parent that no longer lives in the family home. Sometimes they develop feelings of hopelessness regarding relationships in general.

Regressive Behavior

Particularly when it comes to a young child, some common examples of regression include:

  • Accidents after being potty trained
  • Needing a nightlight to sleep
  • Thumb sucking after the habit was already kicked

Stress or emotional trauma that goes untreated can sometimes cause children to take a step back in their developmental growth.

Struggling with Schoolwork

Education is one of the most essential factors in childhood, and a divorce can sometimes derail kids’ studies. That impact of divorce is especially common among older children. 

A slip in grades or performance at school typically occurs because the child is struggling to focus on their schoolwork and feelings about the divorce simultaneously.


How Parents Can Help Kids with Divorce

Walking a child through the stages of divorce in a healthy fashion is exceptionally challenging. It’s complicated since you’re also dealing with your painful feelings of stress, frustration, disappointment, or anger. 

The most important things you can do for your child during this time are to:

  • Remain calm as often as possible
  • Have a civil working relationship with the other parent
  • Get help and support when you’re overwhelmed

However, you can do specific things throughout the divorce process to make this significant life event go more smoothly for your children.

Be Prepared for Telling Kids About Divorce

You’ll eventually have to tell your kids that the divorce is happening. This conversation is an uncomfortable and painful one, but it can also be productive. 

It’s crucial, however, to prepare talking points ahead of this emotional discussion:

  • Have the conversation together so that children hear the same message from both parents. 
  • Try to be as truthful as possible about why the divorce is happening. Your child has the right to know why their life is about to be so drastically changed. 
  • Be sure they hear you say that you love them and will continue to be their parents in every way.
  • Discuss what changes will be happening and how these changes will impact the child’s life. Acknowledge that it will be a difficult transition but that they are never alone.

Having a united front between parents is essential when children are told about the coming divorce. Unity requires you to be respectful toward one another and avoid any suggestion of blame for ending the marriage.

Help Children Through the Grieving Process

Children often see their parent’s divorce as a loss to be grieved. The reality is that they are losing a lot. Time with both parents, family structure, and everyday life are all things they may consider losses. 

Help your child through the grieving process during your divorce. Encourage them to express their feelings and help them find the right words and descriptions for their emotions. Allow them to be open and honest about their disappointments and anger in a safe space, even if it is difficult for you to hear. 

Be Productive When Co-Parenting

It’s all too common for divorced parents to deal with anger and animosity toward one another while trying to co-parent their children. 

To be sure your children aren’t negatively affected by poor co-parenting:

  • Prepare for co-parenting discussions in advance
  • Have arguments in private 
  • Keep your interactions kind and positive in front of the kids 
  • Never speak negatively about your ex in your child’s presence
  • Try to build a cordial relationship for the long run
  • Keep the children’s best interests at the forefront of your minds and discussions

Your feelings of stress when sharing time, expenses, and responsibilities can easily lead to frustration and rage. However, keeping the peace has never been more crucial to your kids’ well-being after a divorce.

Provide the Stability of Routine

Children thrive on routines to feel safe and secure. During or after a divorce, though, their routine has been disrupted, and a new one is starting to form. 

It’s crucial to ensure stability and minimal disruption for your child by planning and agreeing to practical terms regarding living arrangements, time-sharing, visitation, etc. 

Remember to Care for Yourself, Too

Your child will need to depend on you for a lot of emotional and mental support after your divorce. But that support system will be weakened if you, yourself, are struggling to cope. 

When feeling overwhelmed, seek help and guidance from trusted friends, extended family members, or mental health professionals. 

Make sure you’re keeping your mind and body healthy during this stressful time so your children can lean on you.


When to Seek Professional Help for Kids After Divorce

Every child of divorce responds differently to the change in the family dynamic. Even if you follow all of the experts’ advice and family wellness tips while helping your children navigate their new “normal,” there is the possibility that they will need help that is beyond your abilities. 

Some indications that more serious issues are at play in your child’s mental health include:

  • A sudden or gradual disinterest in activities they used to love
  • Inability to focus
  • Decreased academic performance or getting into trouble at school
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Sleep issues
  • Violent outbursts
  • Self-harming behavior (cutting, self-harm, eating disorders, etc.)
  • Using drugs or alcohol

If any of these issues manifest in your child’s life, it’s essential to seek the guidance of their doctor or a family therapist so your child can receive help coping with life after a divorce. 


How a Miami Divorce Lawyer Can Help

The most significant benefit of legal representation throughout the divorce process is the ability to take the stress of all the legal stuff off your plate. This gives you the time and energy to focus on helping your children navigate the stressful process. 

A Miami Family Law Attorney will also have a network of contacts and resources available to you, such as mediation services, support modification, enforcement, and other services often needed to help your child cope with your divorce.

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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