“Helping Children Cope with the Impact of Divorce” by Bill Immel, LCSW
It is reassuring to know that children are inherently resilient by God’s perfect design and empowerment in coping with crisis and change. Many factors vary in families going through a divorce such as the children’s developmental stage, the parent’s relationship with the child, the parent’s relationship history and present relational abilities with each other as co-parents, and the relationship between siblings.
However, there are some factors that apply to the majority of children as to what is helpful in their ability to grieve and cope successfully with the divorce of their parents. You could also say that the opposite of these factors complicates the grief process. I will caution you that these are not easy things to do, but fortunately, if you are a follower of Christ you do not have to do them on your own.
The first and likely one of the most important factors is your ability to grieve and heal victoriously (this includes ultimately being able to forgive your ex-spouse.) This sets the stage for the following steps:
2.) Accept the fact that your child has characteristics of you and your ex-.
3.) Speak positively of your ex-spouse’s strength’s that you see in your child and of positive aspects of their relationship with your ex-.
4.) Give your child some space to “change gears” mentally and emotionally when transitioning from one home to the other (maybe a ritual of reading a book or watching a favorite movie for the first hour or two.)
5.) Encourage your child to journal and/or draw their thoughts and feelings that are just for them if they want to keep them private.
6.) Believably reassure your child that a divorce is an adult matter that they could not have influenced in one direction or the other as far as the decision to divorce or reconcile goes. Most children are ego-centric thinkers and therefore tend to blame themselves for a divorce. One intelligent and sensitive young man I was counseling told me that he was partly to blame because he wanted a pet dog and his parents would argue about the dog’s behavior.
Again if you are a Christian, help your child to know what it is and what it looks like to lean on Jesus in their sadness, fear, and anger. Please know that we would love to help you and your children through this painful process.