What Does My Child Really Think of My Divorce?

small child walking with parent, holding hands

Most parents will agree divorce is difficult for any child, but may struggle with what “difficult” means for their kids. Some reactions and emotions, parents may expect, while others blindside them. Here are a few common reactions and feelings kids have about divorce.

Confusion
One of the biggest initial reactions a child might experience is confusion. They may wonder why Mom and Dad are divorcing or be upset because their parents kept the information from them until the last minute. In the future, you child may feel confusion about what relationships can and should be for himself because he never really understood your relationship. Author Vicki Larson advises against this, saying that “kids have wild imaginations”, which means they may blow “little bits of evidence” out of proportion. For example, a child may see one or two fights and conclude divorce is imminent when it’s not, or conclude that divorce means they will never see one parent again. Failing this, kids may struggle with which parent they should be loyal to or worry about where they will live. In that case, explain your custody arrangements as soon as possible and stress your kids will get to see both parents. Make sure you have a child-friendly divorce attorney, such as Child Custody Attorney Carol N. Shapiro.

Anger
Your kids may feel like you’re divorcing them, not each other. They might figure, it’s your marriage, so you should’ve tried harder to make it work. Some kids may be angrier at one parent than the other, blaming him or her wholly for the divorce. Your boys might feel like one or both of their parents are quitters and thus you lost the big game. In these cases, tell your kids it is okay to be angry, but not to disrespect their parents. Explain that divorce is not directed at them and is a decision Mom and Dad made in order to protect the children from further strife.

Relief or Happiness
It sounds odd, but many kids are relieved when divorce happens. Often, this is because a divorce means less fighting in the house, or means they won’t have to feel caught in the middle. Be aware, though, that relief is no excuse not to be amicable with your spouse. Vicki Larson writes that divorce often means there is “less reason to be civil to each other,” so make the effort to do the opposite. Also, both parents and any new spouses should continue with the children’s routines and favorite activities, driving home the point that these children are still part of families.

Divorce causes a lot of pain for the adults and the kids. Everyone will experience a wide range of emotions, but with care, can get through divorce together. Above all, make it a priority to keep open communication with your children throughout the whole process and into the years following.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents trying to help children deal with divorce.

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