Around 150,000 children are affected by divorce each year, and it can be a particularly troubling time for them. Young children won’t understand the myriad reasons that can contribute to divorce and the nuances involved in such a process, and so it is crucial that they are supported by their parents during such a difficult time. Older ones, by contrast, will be more aware of what goes into a divorce, which can increase the pain they feel.
In this article, we look at how you can best support your children during the divorce process.
Breaking the news
Unfortunately, there is no painless way to do this, but you must be very careful how you break the news to the children. If possible – and this of course may not be – both parents should be together when telling the children, and you should try and be as optimistic as possible, even though that may be incredibly difficult at the time.
Stick to the basic facts and let them know what is going to happen in the immediate future, i.e. “mummy and daddy aren’t happy together anymore” and “mummy and daddy are going to live in separate houses”. You needn’t go into detail, particularly with younger children.
Of course, the most important thing is that you emphasise that you still love them and they will still have a relationship with you. Be prepared for various reactions, from tears to anger and even silence – children will process the news in their own way.
- 0-4 year olds are of course still very dependent on their parents, and although the youngest ones may not understand many words, they’ll be able to pick up on the mood. They may also regress to old habits like bed-wetting and becoming more clingy.
- 5-8 year olds will have a better understanding of what’s happening but will still be deeply impacted by the divorce, in particular the fear of what’s coming next. They’ll need constant reassurance, and they may have a particularly tough time dealing with the idea of dividing their time between two parents.
- 9-12 year olds are likely to show anger about the situation, as well as expressing forthright opinions about the divorce. You may be able to have more honest discussions with them, but you should still refrain from going into too much detail.
After the initial shock of the news, your children will need ongoing reassurance, positivity and support for anything they might be feeling. Reassurance is key; you should constantly remind them that their parents still love them just as much as they did when they were together, and that their relationship with their parents is not going to change.
Be sure to keep to a routine with your children, too: from mealtimes to bedtimes, school runs and recreational activities – changing a routine will simply add to the confusion and sense of insecurity they are already feeling.
Of course, your emotions are important, but if possible you should try and keep them in check for your children. They’ll look to you for safety and security, for an indicator that everything is going to be alright, so be as positive as possible and avoid showing strong emotions in front of them. You can still be honest with them about the situation and explain that you’re feeling sad and scared, too, but avoid divulging too much information.
Talk to someone
It’s important that you’re able to express yourself for the benefit of your own mental health. Although you need to put a brave face on for your children, you don’t need to bottle up your emotions 24/7 – speak to people you trust about what you’re feeling, whether that’s friends, family or trusted professionals like us.
We’re able to advise on all matters of child arrangements during divorce proceedings, and we will handle your situation delicately and professionally, ensuring you receive the support you need in order for you to support your children.
Dodds Solicitors have over 30 years of experience in family law. For more information about our matrimonial law and divorce services, or to speak to us regarding our child arrangements and care expertise, please contact us today.