When I got divorced, I had three children between the ages of three and eight. I remember the stress. I was overwhelmed thinking about how I was going to help my kids get through the divorce and ultimately, how I would manage on my own.
It can be scary to think about how you'll take care of your children after a divorce. There will be many changes on the horizon for everyone. You have to be confident that you can take care of them, even if you have to turn to friends and family members for emotional and financial support. It's also important to remember that taking care of your own needs is vital as you're not going to be able to care for your children if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Don’t be too stubborn to take advantage of the help that is offered. I don't know what I would've done without my mom's support. I am very fortunate that she lives close by. She listened to me when I was scared and when I was upset. She bought my kids shoes when I was freaking out about money and she took my kids to do stuff when I just needed a break.
Ask for what you need from those that do offer to be there for you. If they don't offer, just ask anyway. Your friends and family care about you and your kids. It may be as simple as having someone to listen to you or to take your children for a few hours.
If you're having a hard time getting your emotions under control, I highly recommend considering professional assistance such as a therapist or a divorce coach. In fact, don’t be afraid to seek counseling for the entire family if you feel it could be beneficial. Sometimes people avoid this because of the cost but the relief it could bring your family in invaluable.
Cutting out unnecessary expenses is going to have to be part of the plan for most people that have just been divorced. Establishing a solid budget for your new family structure is important to help kids through the process of divorce. You need to know you'll be able to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on the table. In time, your finances will improve and you'll be able to add in some comforts again for everyone to enjoy.
Some parents worry that their children are going to miss out on material things due to the financial changes a divorce can bring. While it may take the entire family time to adjust to such changes, it's important to know that everyone will be fine. The truth is that as long as their basic needs are being met, they'll get by. In fact, it may serve as a lesson that teaches them to appreciate what they do have.
Think of cost-effective things you can do as a family. You may spend the afternoon at the park or going for a walk. Play board games or watch a movie together. When my kids were younger, we spent beautiful days at playgrounds and cold and rainy days at the libraries. If money is tight, do things that allow you more time to bond instead of being an additional expense for the family.
Communication is very important when it comes to helping kids through a divorce. Make sure your children feel safe enough to come to you to talk. If you break down in tears every time the subject of the divorce comes up, they'll clam up. While you may get emotional during discussions, you have to be strong. If you're positive about everything turning out fine, they'll believe it as well. I know that it can be difficult to be positive and there were many days when I had to tell myself to just fake until I could make it. We all did make it, though, and my kids are doing great.
Be as honest as you can to help kids through divorce. Children will have various questions about what's going on. Some want to know why it happened in a more general way, as in "why does the family have to deal with it". Other children will want to know the specific reasons why their parents aren’t together anymore. Make sure you fully understand what your child is really asking before you start to answer. Respond only to their question and resist the urge to overshare.
For kids who are having a hard time expressing their feelings, books are a great way to draw them out. Check out our list of children's books about divorce.
To help kids through divorce, you do need to do your very best to get along with the other parent. You want to make it possible for both of you to take care of the children. In fact, your former partner's support can help you to have the personal time you need. It may take some getting used to at first when your house feels very quiet. However, when your ex has the children, it does free up time for you to rediscover the things you love to do. Your ex may also be willing to assist you financially if you are struggling to make ends meet. However, they're only going to do that if you keep the lines of communication open.
It can be hard to help kids through a divorce. Still, many parents will tell you that these simple tips are all that got them through such a difficult time in their lives. They focused on being strong for their children and there were days when that's all that got them out of bed. Your kids need your support. It can be hard to go from a two-parent household to one, but many people are successfully doing just that every day. You will be, too!
For additional resources on caring for your children through a divorce, download our e-book.