Helping children cope with a divorce requires good understanding of the needs based upon kids’ ages.
A divorce impacts the children in a family just as much as it does the adults. Pennsylvania parents who get a divorce have to learn how to best communicate with their children during a divorce. Working closely with children during a divorce is an important way to help them understand how to process sometimes difficult experiences and emotions. The steps to accomplish this are not necessarily the same for all children.
Today’s Parent notes that there are natural variances in emotional intelligence among different kids due in large part to their ages. This combined with individual personalities or other extenuating circumstances, will directly impact how parents should discuss this issue with their kids.
Start at the beginning
The thought of initially breaking the news to kids about a divorce can be heart wrenching for parents. Some people may originally feel that talking to each child one-on-one is best. However, Psychology Today and various other professionals indicate that this is generally not the best course of action for an initial message about a divorce. Parents should, whenever possible, present a united front. Hold a family meeting. Incorporate “we” as much as possible, even if the separation is not a mutual choice. Kids are going to remember this conversation for a long time. Kids need to understand and feel confident that you, as their parents, are still there for them. They need to understand that your decision to separate is not because of them.
A family meeting avoids any of the kids feeling burdened about having to keep a secret until siblings are told. It also prevents kids told last from feeling resentful that they were not told earlier.
This type of meeting should be kept to basics and parents should avoid issuing any blame to each other. As kids ask questions, parents are urged to answer honestly yet identify when to indicate some topics should be discussed with individual kids at a later time.
If a family meeting is not possible, then kids still need to know and understand that the other parent loves them. Again, it is not a good idea to blame the other parent or to provide too many details to the kids.
Moving through the process of divorce with kids
Once the initial news about the divorce has been shared, different conversations will take place with different kids. Some of these may involve multiple siblings at once and others may be with one child individually. With younger children, the focus will be predominately on logistics such as who will be picking them up from school, which house they will spend the night at and so forth.
Older children need to know such things as well but will be able to discuss their emotions. That said, some kids send the message that they don’t want to talk so parents need to work harder to keep the lines of communication open and make sure kids know parents are available.
Studies show that there are three factors that help kids of any age adjust to life post-divorce. It is important that the kids maintain a strong relationship with both parents. There should be no limits put on communication with either parent. It is important to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Second, it is essential that good parenting continues. Finally, parents must make every effort to avoid exposing kids to conflict.
Talk to an attorney
In the midst of handling kids’ needs and one’s own emotional needs, it is important to make sure other elements of a divorce are properly addressed. Working with a lawyer is important for this reason when getting divorced in Pennsylvania.