Family Matters: How to Deal with Your Kids Acting Out After Your Divorce

wedding cake figurines split apart signifying divorce

Your kids are smarter than you might think. They pick up on the cues around them, and they hear the fights that you and your spouse have, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be happy when you announce your upcoming divorce.

Divorce takes a huge emotional toll on a family, parents and children included. It is hardly ever a pleasant situation, but for some families it can be extremely painful and messy. Depending on how old your children are, you might find that they start acting out as a result of the divorce. Oftentimes, kids and  teenagers don’t know how to express their frustrations, so they lash out in anger, hostility, moodiness, inappropriate behavior, or even just ignoring you. Your children might act out in a myriad of different ways, including breaking curfew, lying and even stealing, but you can learn how to cope with those problems and find solutions. Read ahead for some ideas of how to smooth things over with your children as you try to rebuild and repair your family.

Ask for a Want List

As mentioned before, sometimes kids and teens have a tough time expressing what they want or what is bothering them, so they act out. If you can get a better idea of what your kids want from you, it will help you to rectify the situation to some degree. Ask each of your children to sit down and come up with a want list or wish list after the divorce, and ask them to write down exactly what they hope for in the future. While you probably can’t get back together with their father or mother, you can meet their other needs. Younger children of divorced parents often just want to know that both their parents will come to their games and shows and that they’ll still be able to spend time with both parents. Having them make this list will help you to know how you can help them to have a more normal upbringing after the divorce and help them to adjust to the “new normal” family situation.

Let Them Ask Questions

During and after a divorce, your kids will not only be hurt, but they will probably feel confused as well. Encourage your kids to ask the questions that are on their minds, but only be honest up to a point when responding. While you might know that your marriage ended because your partner cheated, your kids might not be old enough or ready to handle that. They’ll likely ask you why you divorced your spouse, but they’ll also want to know when they can see the absent parent, where that parents lives and if you both still love them. Depending on how old your children are, it might very difficult for them to comprehend how or why you and your spouse have separated. Talking openly with your kids is a huge part of helping them deal with the divorce. Opening the channels of communication will allow your children to say what they want and get their questions answered. They will likely still be upset by the divorce, but if they can at least understand what is going on or why it is happening, they won’t be as emotionally distressed or confused.

Show Your Love

When you have gone through a divorce, it is sometimes hard to stop focusing on your thoughts and emotions and start focusing on your kids, but you need to make this your top priority. Children of divorced parents often feel abandoned and like one parent left them behind. You and your former partner need to show your kids that you love them and will support them no matter what. While you might be overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding the divorce, you also need to think about how your kids are feeling. If you are wrapped up in your own world, your kids might feel neglected or unloved, even though you still love them and always will. Making a special effort to pay extra attention to your children during and after the divorce will help them to feel like although their parents aren’t together anymore, they are still loved. Sometimes, no matter what the reason for acting out is, children who are lashing out just need a little extra love and attention.

Be an Adult

Above all else, you need to remember that you are the adult here. Many divorced parents let their kids act out because they don’t know what to do or because they think the behavior will pass. You need to lay down the law and explain that acting out is not okay and that it comes with consequences, which can including grounding them or taking away their privileges. Most kids will keep pushing the boundaries in the hopes that it will force their parents back together again. Now is the time that you need to explain that the divorce is final and that nothing they do can change the situation. A stern warning and explaining the consequences can help your kids look for other ways to express their unhappiness. Many children act out and then use the excuse that it is their parents’ fault. Although statements like this are hurtful, you need to remain a parent. Giving your children the discipline they need will be of the most help to them in the end. If you stand firm, the behavior is more likely to pass than if you just let them run wild in hopes that it will eventually pass.

A divorce can be devastating for children of all ages, and may have an effect on them throughout their lives. As a parent, the best thing that you can do for your children is give them time to heal—the whole family will need this time until things become easier to deal with. By finding out what your children want for the future, by showing extra love and attention, and by staying firm in your parenting, you can help your children make it though this difficult time. It won’t be easy, but if your children start acting out, some of these tactics will help you to adjust to the situation and mend their hurt feelings. Information for this article was provided by a child support lawyer in Mobile, AL.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents dealing with the aftermath of divorce.

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