Helping your children heal after a divorce

While adults in New Jersey and across the country have a tough time handling a divorce, it is important to recognize that children also feel the brunt of the separation. Unfortunately, little ones are not always able to adequately express their emotions or let their parents know how they feel. There are several ways that experts suggest working with children to provide for a smoother transition.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, parents should look for the warning signs that a child is struggling to cope with the divorce. These signs include factors such as increased aggression, behavioral problems or even rejecting one or both parents. On the other end of the spectrum, children may start to withdraw.

Children will often feel a loss of control and a lack of understanding in these situations. Psychology Today suggests that parents work with their children in an age-appropriate way to explain the end of a marriage and new family dynamic. The following may be helpful:

  • With toddlers: Parents can let toddlers know it is OK to talk about their emotions. It is important for children of this age to maintain a routine that is as close to it was prior to the separation.
  • With elementary school children: Addressing potential changes is an important part of preparing the child, especially if he or she will have to attend a new school. Any questions should be answered simply.
  • Teenagers: Parents should be careful not to use the child as a confidant or rely too heavily on the teen to take on household responsibilities.

In some circumstances, participating in family or individual therapy may be appropriate. Any parent who has concerns about a child’s ability to cope with a divorce should consult with a physician.